Executive Insights

Executive Insights

Executive Insights

The payoff of postsecondary education
Kentucky School Advocate
April 2017
By Mike Armstrong
KSBA Executive Director
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
– Sherlock Holmes, from a book by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

On several occasions of late, I have been to the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS) website.
The site contains two July 2014 special reports by Dr. Charles McGrew that are especially informative. They are “No College = Low Wages, Kentucky High School Graduates Who Do Not Attend College Face Limited Employment Opportunities And Low Wages” and the accompanying report “More College = More Money, Kentucky Postsecondary Feedback Reports Reveal Employment, Earnings, and Continuing Education For Our Public University Graduates.” 
Highlights from the “No College = Low Wages” report include: 
· On average, Kentucky’s public high school graduates from 2011-12 earned $7,567 the year following graduation. The wages of students graduating 2009-10 rose to $11,511 by 2012-13.

· Three years after high school two out of three graduates from 2009-10 were earning less than full-time minimum wage.

· Female graduates are only earning about 70 percent as much as males three years after high school.

· African-American graduates earn more than 30 percent less than Caucasian graduates three years after high school.

· Graduates with 20 or more unexcused absences in their senior year earned up to 55 percent less than those with five or fewer.

· About 60 percent of the graduates work in the four lowest-paying industries. (These industries are retail trade; accommodation and food services; educational services; and administrative and support, waste management and remediation services, which includes cleaning up and removing toxic waste, lead paint, asbestos and other hazardous materials.

In contrast, highlights from the “More College = More Money” report include:

· 14,289 credentials were awarded at Kentucky public universities in 2012.

· 80 percent of students completing an associate degree from a public university were working in Kentucky three years later.

· 75 percent of students completing a bachelor’s degree from a public university were working in Kentucky three years later.

· 30 percent of out-of-state students graduating with a bachelor’s degree were working in Kentucky one year later.

· 28 percent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grads from University of Louisville and University of Kentucky attended graduate school.

· Three-fourths of the in-state students who left in 2012 were working in Kentucky a year later, making an average of $15,000.

· Students who completed an associate or bachelor’s degree in a health or STEM-related field earned more on average five and 10 years after graduation than most other majors.

So while we continuously promote the benefits of postsecondary education – be it either a two- or four-year program – it is especially important and valuable to be able to have these conversations that are supported by data. High school graduates have a clear and definitive choice when looking beyond high school. Providing them with the objective and unbiased facts and figures can go a long way to helping them make sound decisions – decisions that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
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