Utah’s public colleges and universities propel the state’s economy and student earnings forward

Utahns completing a bachelor’s degree see a wage premium of $15,000 per year over those with only a high school diploma

According to a recent report from the Utah System of Higher Education, Utah public colleges and universities play a critical role in Utah’s success by providing the skilled labor force needed to grow and strengthen Utah’s economy. Students attending USHE colleges and universities completed an average of 34,400 certificates and degrees per year, between 2012-19, preparing them to fill open jobs in the state.

Utah’s unemployment has steadily trended downward as the state has added 27,000 to 50,000 jobs each year. Because of this, a large variety of skilled workers are needed to meet workforce demand. Utah’s public colleges and universities are aligning programs with those needs.

In 2018-19, four out of the five most common academic programs aligned directly with workforce needs, making up 38% of credential-earning students

  • Health professions
  • Business management
  • Computer and information systems
  • Education 

“A primary initiative of the USHE Board of Regents is aligning postsecondary education programs with workforce needs,” said Dave R. Woolstenhulme, Interim Commissioner of Higher Education. “Moving forward, the Board aims to further strengthen the ties between higher education and industry so that students and the state may see increased value from their postsecondary credentials. Recognizing my office needed to more intentionally focus its efforts on workforce development and industry engagement as well, I developed a new position to align academic programs for increased student success and completion across the USHE system to meet industry needs.”

Due in part to workforce alignment, Utahns with more postsecondary education are seeing less unemployment than the statewide average— with levels below 3%. Utahns completingbachelor’s degrees have an unemployment rate of 2.0%, while those with “some college” or an associate degree see an unemployment rate of 2.4%.

Beyond meeting workforce needs in the state, research shows that Utah students with more postsecondary education earn more than those with only a high school diploma. Utahns completing a bachelor’s degree see a wage premium of $15,000 per year over those with only a high school diploma and those with “some college” or an associate degree see a wage premium of $3,300.