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2015 Executive Summary

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This report analyzes employment data for graduates of Oklahoma public colleges and universities one year and five years after graduation for various graduating classes of the past decade.  A snapshot of employment status five years after graduation is shown for the graduating classes of 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2007-08, and the employment status of the 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 classes is shown after one year.

The current study supports national data that link salary to educational attainment. Oklahoma data for graduates of the state’s public colleges and universities confirm that, on average, the higher the degree a student earns, the higher the salary he or she will earn.

  • Five years after graduation, 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients employed in Oklahoma were earning $42,896 on average.
  • Average earnings for 2007-08 certificate and associate in arts/associate in science degree holders five years after graduation were 45% and 34% less than bachelor’s degree recipients.
  • Five years after graduation, the 2007-08 associate in applied science, master’s, doctoral, and professional degree recipients earned more (3%, 30%, 57%, and 148%, respectively) than bachelor’s degree recipients.
  • Graduates with engineering, mathematics, computer science, and other technical degrees consistently earn higher average salaries, although health professions, business management, and transportation graduates also command strong salaries on average.

The good news for Oklahoma is that the majority of its college graduates remain in the state, contributing to the state’s economy and opportunities for growth, even five years after graduation. Following are highlights of the most recent Oklahoma employment data for the state’s higher education graduates:

  • Five years after graduation, 61% of the 2007-08 bachelor’s degree recipients were employed in Oklahoma. More certificate (75%) and associate degree (74%) recipients remained in Oklahoma, and fewer master’s (57%), and doctoral (32%) graduates remained, while professional degree recipients remained at the same rate (61%) as bachelor’s degree holders. 
  • One year after graduation, 78% of the 2011-12 bachelor’s degree recipients were employed in Oklahoma. More certificate and associate degree recipients (82%) remained in Oklahoma, and fewer master’s (70%), professional (70%), and doctoral (62%) graduates remained.
  • Of the bachelor’s degree recipients who were Oklahoma residents, 85% of the 2011-12 graduates remained in Oklahoma after one year, and 71% of the 2007-08 graduates remained after five years. Additionally, many nonresident bachelor’s degree recipients remained in state after graduation: 46% after one year, and 26% after five years.
  • The current data (for 2007-08 graduates after five years) for bachelor’s and master’s degree recipients reflect steady employment rates, at 61 and 57%, respectively, compared to the study one year ago (for 2006-07 graduates after five years). Rates for professional degree holders increased from 55 to 61%, while rates for doctoral, associate and certificate holders decreased (from 1 to 7 percentage points), compared to one year ago.
  • For all degree levels except associate in applied science, employment rates after one year for the 2011-12 graduates were several percentage points higher than the rates for the prior year’s graduates. Doctoral degree holder rates increased most (7 percentage points), followed by bachelor’s degree, professional degree, and certificate holders (3 points higher at each level). The increases at the associate in arts/associate in science and master’s degree levels were more modest, at 1 point higher, while the 2011-12 associate in applied science graduates were found at a lower rate (2 percentage points) than their prior year counterparts.
  • Although the vast majority of graduates of Oklahoma public higher education institutions remain in Oklahoma, the “out” migration is evident in technical fields of study such as engineering, computer science, physical sciences, mathematics and architecture based upon employment rates after five years.  For instance, 50% of physical science bachelor’s degree holders (2007-08) where found employed in the state after five years. Additionally, architecture and engineering bachelor’s degree holders had lower employment rates at 49% and 47%, respectively.
  • Of the 2011-12 graduates who were not found employed, 1.2% were still enrolled in Oklahoma higher education after one year. The highest percentage of continued enrollment was found among the associate in arts/associate in science degree holders at 3.0%, followed by certificate holders at 2.7%. For those who had graduated five years earlier (2007-08), continued higher education enrollment was not found to be significant. 

Curricula alignment, internships and other partnerships between higher education and business enhance the value of higher education and the employability of Oklahoma’s graduates. Efforts to improve student preparation and awareness of college, strategic scholarship programs, and accelerated degree completion programs all contribute to increased numbers of college graduates in the state. In 2010, Oklahoma joined with Complete College America, a national nonprofit organization focused on raising degree attainment. Gov. Mary Fallin framed the importance of this goal and the state’s commitment in a September 2011 press conference when she said, “My top priority as governor is to create a business environment in Oklahoma that fosters economic growth and job creation. Ensuring we have a highly skilled, college educated workforce is essential to attracting and retaining good jobs and investment to our state.”1