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February 20, 2004 :: Most Oklahoma College Graduates Staying in State, Report Indicates

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The majority of Oklahoma’s college students are choosing to remain in state to work following graduation; however, many with degrees in technical fields such as engineering and computer science are leaving to find work elsewhere.

Those and other important findings were revealed in the latest Employment Outcomes Report, which was recently released by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

“Producing more college graduates and keeping them here is extremely critical if our state is to move forward in this knowledge-based economy,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said, noting that only 20 percent of Oklahoma’s population 25 years of age and older possess at least a bachelor’s degree.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the companies coveted by every state in the nation would certainly give Oklahoma a second look if we have a well-educated workforce to offer them. The high-paying jobs that these companies would bring or help create are what our state truly needs,” Risser said.

The report, which culminated from research conducted by the State Regents, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and the Oklahoma Tax Commission, showed that nearly 60 percent of all bachelor’s degree recipients from 1997-1998 were employed in Oklahoma five years later. In addition, almost 80 percent of all 2001-2002 bachelor’s degree recipients were employed in Oklahoma one year later.

For graduates who were Oklahoma residents when they started college, the percentage of those employed in the state was even higher at 86 percent after one year and 67 percent after five years.

Graduates who majored in public affairs, education, health professions, and protective services were most likely to stay, the report said. Graduates who studied transportation; area and ethnic studies; computer and information sciences; engineering; physical sciences; and philosophy and religion were among those least likely to stay.

Not surprisingly, the report also revealed that the higher a degree an individual earns, the more money he or she will make in salary. Oklahoma graduates who received a bachelor’s degree in 1997-98 were earning an average annual salary of $32,072 five years later. Associate degree recipients were earning an average of $27,410 a year after five years.

Oklahoma graduates who earned a master’s degree in 1997-98 were earning an average annual salary of $38,318, which is 19 percent more than those with bachelor’s degrees. Those with doctoral or professional degrees in 1997-98 earned approximately $51,000 and $67,000 a year, respectively, after five years.

The report also indicated that Oklahoma graduates with computer science, engineering and other technical degrees earned higher average salaries. Health professions and specialized marketing graduates also commanded strong salaries.

The State Regents have committed themselves to increasing the number of Oklahoma college graduates by 2010 through programs and initiatives implemented within the last decade, including the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS), Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) and the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP). All are designed to help middle and high school students better prepare for the rigors of college work through mentoring or tutoring, assessments and a stronger core curriculum. The State Regents also promote initiatives to improve retention and graduation rates at the colleges and universities.

In addition, Gov. Brad Henry’s Economic Development Generating Excellence (EDGE) project, in which the State Regents are playing a significant role, should help increase the number of college graduates in the state by retaining and creating new jobs.

The entire “Employment Outcomes Report” can be viewed on the State Regents’ Web site by clicking here.