Higher education is not only a primary engine for the state’s economy, it is one of the most solid options to guarantee a higher individual income. In Utah, the 2016 USHE graduates will earn a combined increase of over $400 million in wages their first year in the workforce—an average of over $13,000 more per graduate. This also includes all USHE awards; from certificates to graduate degrees, where the income premium varies significantly by attainment level and degree type. This also takes into account the U.S. Census estimates of college graduates participating in the workforce and the estimated wage increase by degree attainment in Utah.
Utah’s public colleges and universities awarded 33,822 certificates and degrees in 2015-16, the largest USHE cohort ever. Almost ⅔ of those awards were bachelor’s degree or higher in attainment. On average, an individual with a bachelor’s degree will earn at least 52% more in their first year of employment than those with just a high school degree, and the wage increase is even higher among those with a graduate degree, at 129%.
The ROI of college in Utah
With 4-year tuition at Utah’s public colleges among the lowest in the country at $6,580/year, the estimated wage “return” on 4 years of college for a bachelor’s degree is over 100% after just two-years of working after graduation.
Strengthening Utah’s tax base
According to the Utah Taxpayers’ Association, Utahns pay an average 12.71% in state tax contributions. 2016 graduates will generate an estimated $48 million in additional revenues to the state this year. 94% of those increased revenues will come from those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
This simple ROI highlights the advantages of any college education in today’s economy. The most recent recession and recovery have hastened a long-term change in the composition of the American workforce. The Great Recession decimated low-skill blue collar and clerical jobs nationwide. According to the Georgetown University’s Center on the Workforce, 99% of jobs filled since December 2007 have gone to workers with at least some college education. For the college-educated, job opportunities during the recovery have been robust.