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Oregon university grads are workforce ready, highly employed contributors, reports One Year Later study

Contact: Di Saunders – Office, 503-725-5714; Cell, 503-807-5539
Source: Ruth Keele, Director, Performance Measurement & Outcomes - Office, 541-346-5754

PORTLAND, January 30 – One year after receiving their degrees from an Oregon public university, 2005 graduates are reporting high levels of satisfaction with their academic experience and its job relevance, have higher rates of employment, and have higher earnings than the Class of 2003 saw one year after their graduation. One Year Later: The Status of the Class of 2005 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients reports the perceptions and post-graduation employment and education outcomes of bachelor’s degree recipients one year after they have left one of the seven Oregon University System institutions: Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon, and Western Oregon University.

“Oregon’s public universities are producing highly skilled, capable graduates who are work-ready and prepared to contribute immediately to Oregon industries and organizations,” said George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the OUS. “This speaks to the quality of education delivered by our faculty and the relevance of students’ engagement in research and internships while in college.” In 2004-05, OUS institutions produced almost 16,800 undergraduate and graduate degree recipients. “Oregon can meet the requirements of today’s competitive, borderless economy with our graduates. But we must enroll more Oregonians from across the state than we do today to ensure the success and prosperity of our citizens in the future.”

Almost 93% of the Class of 2005 were successfully employed or had been accepted into an educational program a year after graduating, compared to 88% of the Class of 2003. The majority of 2005 graduates, about 80%, are employed, and of these, 78% have stayed in Oregon to work.  Of the remainder, equal proportions (6%) work in Washington and California, while 10% took jobs in other parts of the U.S., and a very small percentage work outside the U.S.  Reflecting the upturn in Oregon’s economy, the percent of 2005 graduates who are unemployed and looking for work dropped to 3%, down from 6% of the Class of 2003 who graduated into a recessionary job market.

Ruth Keele, principal investigator of the study and OUS director of performance measurement and outcomes, said, “Regardless of the state of Oregon’s economy over the last several years, the unemployment rate of OUS graduates has tracked lower than the state rate, demonstrating the added benefit of a bachelor’s degree in securing and maintaining employment.”  A majority of 2005 graduates, almost 70%, noted that their current job was very or somewhat related to their degree, with 42% indicating a very close relationship, up significantly from the 34% reported by the Class of 2003. Graduates not working in a field related to their degree cited the economy, barriers to entry in the job area, convenience, or better pay of current job among the top reasons influencing their job choice.

Helping to meet workforce shortages and improve K-12 student success, an increasing number of 2005 graduates, 14%, are employed as teachers or in other education-related jobs, compared to 11% of 2003 graduates. “We’re pleased to note that graduates employed in the K-12 education sector are more likely than other members of the Class of 2005 to remain in Oregon to work and are more likely to have graduated with a GPA of 3.75 or higher,” commented Keele. In total, 40% of 2005 graduates work in education, healthcare or public and nonprofit organizations, with 45% in the private sector. Professional positions – such as jobs in computer science, engineering, legal fields, education and healthcare – are held by 41% of graduates who were also more likely to have participated in experiential learning programs such as internships.

A majority of the 2005 bachelor’s degree recipients, 84.3%, rated their educational experience at an OUS institution very highly, up from 81.7% and 79.8%, respectively, from surveys of 2003 and 2001 graduates. About 30% of 2005 graduates rated the quality of their education as excellent, a significant increase from the 23.5% seen with the Class of 2003. While close to 90% were extremely or somewhat satisfied with the overall quality of instruction and accessibility of faculty, a lower percentage, 78%, were extremely or somewhat satisfied with the availability of courses, and an even lower percentage, 47%, with academic support services.

“While we’re very pleased with the increasing levels of satisfaction of our graduates, we’re also paying close attention to those areas where students are not getting the levels of support they need to reach their potential,” said Pernsteiner. “We’re optimistic that the 2007-2009 Governor’s Recommended Budget and support from the Legislature will allow us to add faculty and begin rebuilding the student services and safety nets lost during the recent recession and budget cuts.”
Graduates in the survey reported that their university experience added skills and competencies to their work and life portfolios. More than 90% of respondents said that their university experience improved their critical thinking and analytical skills, and a similar number rated highly other skills gained, such as working with others, and writing and speaking effectively. “These are the types of life and work skills that help our graduates succeed in their careers while also providing the flexibility to change jobs and professions as the Oregon marketplace evolves,” noted Keele. Additionally, in the year following their graduation, more than 59% of the Class of 2005 volunteered time to a civic, community or nonprofit organization; and 27% of the Class had enrolled in an educational program.

Graduates of the Class of 2005 reported average annual earnings of almost $35,000, slightly higher than the $32,175 average earnings of all U.S. workers aged 18 to 24 who hold a bachelor’s degree. Graduates earning over $50,000 right out of college increased significantly to 18% of 2005 graduates, up from 8% for 2003 graduates. The number of graduates from Class of 2005 earning less than $25,000 decreased to 29%, down from 41% for 2003 graduates.

Along with higher salaries came higher levels of student loan borrowing for some students. About two-thirds of the Class of 2005 borrowed to cover college costs, similar to the national average. Average debt was just over $23,000, with 35% borrowing $15,000 or less, and almost one-fifth borrowing more than $30,000. “Unfortunately, we are seeing that many of the students who borrowed are also those who come into the university most vulnerable,” said Keele. “These include students who are low income, are the first in their family obtain a degree, or have transferred from a community college.” About 35% of OUS 2005 graduates were first-generation college students. “We’re also seeing higher student loan debt among some graduates who report a close relationship between their job and their major, suggesting that those with clear career goals in high paying fields may be more willing to incur higher debt because they believe they can repay it,” added Keele.

One Year Later utilized telephone surveys of a random sample of almost 1,800 graduates from the Class of 2005 who received bachelor’s degrees from an OUS institution. Completed by OUS biennially, the study is part of a larger system of tracking and improving performance and student outcomes within Oregon’s seven public universities.

For a full copy of the One Year Later report, or the Fact Sheet go to www.ous.edu, to “Featured Documents” on the left side of the OUS Home Page.

Oregon University System comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu

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