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April 27, 2006 :: Vast Majority of College Graduates Choose to Remain in State, Salaries Rising

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Commencement is a time of celebration for families all across the state. But it can also be an anxious time, especially for the thousands of college graduates. Where will they go? What salaries will they make?

If a recent report designed to study the value of higher education in the state is any indication, a vast majority of Oklahoma residents are staying in the Sooner State following graduation. They are also earning higher salaries than previous college graduates.

According to the latest Employment Outcomes Report by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, 88 percent of 2003-04 college graduates who were also Oklahoma residents were employed one year later. About 65 percent of 1999-00 graduates were employed in Oklahoma after five years. In contrast, 48 percent of non-residents were employed after one year and 22 percent after five years.

The report also showed that 81 percent of all college graduates (resident and non-resident) in the state who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2003-04 were employed in Oklahoma one year later. For those graduates who earned bachelor’s degrees in 1999-00, a total of 58 percent were still employed in Oklahoma five years later. The percentages were even higher for certificate and associate degree recipients in both categories.

“This report clearly shows that most of our college graduates like living in Oklahoma and want to remain here. Their contributions to our state are essential in a knowledge-based economy,” said Chancellor Paul G. Risser, who noted that despite seeing improvements in the percentage of graduates in technical fields, such as engineering, computer science and physical sciences, who choose to remain in the state, too many are still leaving.

“One of the key factors in keeping science and technology graduates here is to lure high-tech companies that have the higher-paying positions,” Risser said. “And I believe our state and business leaders have been making progress in that area, especially as part of Governor Henry’s EDGE (Economic Development Generating Excellence) initiative. More work must be done, but I expect we’ll see continued progress in the near future.”

The report, which culminated from research conducted by the State Regents, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and the Oklahoma Tax Commission, also showed that Oklahoma graduates who received a bachelor’s degree in 1999-00 were earning an average annual salary of $35,615 five years later. That figure represents an increase of more than $3,500 since the last report in 2004. Salaries for those graduates who earned master’s, doctoral and professional degrees averaged anywhere from 24 percent to 111 percent higher than those with just a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, the report indicated that Oklahoma graduates with computer science, engineering and other technical degrees consistently earned higher average salaries. Health professions, specialized marketing and transportation graduates also commanded strong salaries on average.

“The State Regents have promoted many initiatives designed to produce more graduates,” State Regents’ Chairman Cheryl P. Hunter said, “including partnerships between Oklahoma higher education and Oklahoma businesses that lead to the creation of more internships and apprenticeships throughout the state, especially in high-growth industries. With these initiatives, along with Governor Henry’s EDGE project, even more Oklahoma college graduates may be able to remain in the state.”

The entire Employment Outcomes Report can be viewed on the State Regents’ Web site at www.okhighered.org under Studies and Reports.