LinkedIn Expands Efforts to Help Colleges Keep in Touch With Students and Alumni

LinkedIn is doing more these days to attract college students, and to work with colleges to use the website to get better data on what their students do after graduation.

The social-networking company announced on Wednesday a new feature that allows college students and graduates to add their college affiliation to the education section of their profile by clicking a button on the college’s website or in an email from the college. When they do that, public information from their profile, such as where they live and work and what they do, is then compiled into college-specific metrics.

The metrics, which are accessible via LinkedIn, allow users to see what a college’s alumni are up to. Those statistics are not new, but the new button could increase the number of students who take part, which could bring more data to the colleges and to LinkedIn.

At the University of California at San Diego, career-services and alumni-relations offices have been combined as part of an effort to commit to ensuring the success and mobility of students, said Armin Afsahi, associate vice chancellor and chief alumni officer.

LinkedIn has played a key role in helping UC-San Diego keep track of and engage with alumni, and the Add-to-Profile button is just the next step, Mr. Afsahi said.

UC-San Diego is one of 13 colleges using LinkedIn’s Add-to-Profile button so far.

The program aggregates data in a way that can help to serve both alumni and students. “Data should inform all of this,” Mr. Afsahi said. “Companies like LinkedIn have been so terrific in providing an aggregate database. By serving the users, they’re also providing aggregate data that informs so much better decision making and relationship development.”

It’s not always clear to students where their major will lead them after college, Mr. Afsahi said. With LinkedIn, they can see what alumni who earned degrees in a specific area have done since graduating — and that can help students decide whether to change their major.

“If I’m a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old, the most validating thing that assures me that I’m on the right track is by looking at the other 20,000 people who are like me who are graduates from my school,” Mr. Afsahi said.

It can also help alumni looking to recruit at their alma mater.

UC-San Diego, like many recruiters in the private sector, has a license that allows it to see LinkedIn’s back-end data, which permits advanced searches, Mr. Afsahi said.

He gave this example of how such a search could be useful: Someone putting on a theatrical production in New York contacts Mr. Afsahi for recommendations of people for the show. He can then do an advanced search through the data to find ideal candidates to suggest, and he can reach out to them, through either LinkedIn or information in the college’s alumni database.

“It becomes almost like a brokering function,” Mr. Afsahi said.

At a time when the value of higher education is being questioned, Mr. Afsahi said, it’s important for colleges to do everything they can to help students succeed after they graduate.

“That’s the changing face of higher ed,” he said. “We’ve always graduated and assumed they’ll go on and do great things — and they have, our graduates do great things — but what we’re doing at UC-San Diego is fully committing ourselves to making that happen and being intentional about doing so.”

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