Don Sinclair’s KPI Numbers Don’t Add Up, Especially for Humber College

Photo of Humber College
Credit: B. Ho

Speaking on Metro Morning on October 31, Don Sinclair, the CEO of the College Employer Council, said, “if you take a look at our Key Performance Indicators, which are a measurement of quality, 91% of employers like our graduates, and 88% of students are satisfied with the programs that we’re delivering.” He made this point to suggest that students don’t notice the damage precarious employment in the college system does to their education. We think he’s wrong: students know when their teachers can’t afford to give them the attention for which they’re paying tuition.

So we took a look at Don’s numbers. The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are derived from surveys given each year to college students and grads to assess overall satisfaction, and colleges get their funding based on their KPI results. While it’s true that according to the latest numbers available, the 2015-16 KPI survey, 91% of employers are satisfied with college grads, the survey does not give any data on how many employers filled out the questionnaire, or how they were identified and contacted. In fact, grads must give consent for their employers to be contacted, so they have ultimate control on whether their bosses will even get to answer the survey or not. A grad who knows their employer might not be satisfied with their work will probably not send them the survey, greatly skewing the results.

Among those employers who did get sent the survey, those who bothered to fill it out are likely only supportive bosses, who really like the hardworking young people they hired and so were willing to spend time on some extra paperwork. Much as we respect and are grateful to the people hiring our grads, we don’t think this number offers any meaningful insight into educational standards in the colleges.

The next number Don states is harder to back up. The 2015-16 KPI survey only found a 76.5% overall student satisfaction rate. We’re not sure where Don got his 88% number, but we think he probably rounded up an extra percent over the 86.9% of students who were very satisfied in answer to the statement that “Overall, your program is giving you knowledge and skills that will be useful in your future career.“ This is a very low bar to meet. Rather than crowing about this number we should be very concerned that any students felt that their programs weren’t giving them skills that would be useful in their careers. Why else are they in college? What are we running programs for if not to give them useful skills?

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Now that we’re looking into it, our own KPIs at Humber College have been steadily falling, but this is a story that no one in management is telling. From a high of 83% ten years ago, graduate satisfaction has fallen to 75% in the latest numbers available. Overall student satisfaction has declined by a similar amount over the same period.

Could it be that students are noticing that they’re being shortchanged by a system that runs on precarious work? We wonder why our President thought he needed a $60,000 raise to his $494,000 salary when this downward trend of student satisfaction is his report card.