UT System grads earn more than those who attend UT System but do not graduate

Caleb Wong

Graduates from UT System schools earn about $150,000 more throughout their lifetime than students who attend a UT System institution but do not graduate, according to data collected by the UT System.

The statistics, released in December, were collected from data on more than 325,000 students at all schools within the UT System. By analyzing records from the Texas Workforce Commission, the UT System Office of Strategic Initiatives compiled salary information that served as the basis for the study, according to a UT System press release.

Other findings from the study show that UT System degree holders earned 45 percent more one year after graduation than those who started but did not complete degrees. Ten years later, degree holders earned an average salary of $72,821, compared to $55,065 for non-degree holders.

Bruce Kellison, associate director of UT Austin’s Bureau of Business Research, said in a statement that the data showed degrees are highly valued by employers.

“By matching Texas Workforce Commission salary data with academic achievement records at UT System campuses, the study accurately illustrates the tremendous salary advantages that graduates enjoy over those who don’t complete their degrees,” Kellison said. “The analysis clearly shows the value of starting one’s career with a college degree. The practical knowledge and thinking skills students learn in college provide graduates with the flexibility to adapt to the changing demands of a complex and global work environment.”

Data from seekUT, which provides employment data for UT System graduates after graduation, show that average salaries vary by many factors, including major and institution attended. Engineers, for example, generally make more than social workers during their first year of employment. The salaries can also vary by institution; UT Austin math majors make more on average than math majors from UT Arlington during their first year out of college.

Tatem Oldham, assistant director of Liberal Arts Career Services, said that an undergraduate degree signals to employers that they have desirable skills.

“Employers recruiting on campus are typically seeking current students, soon-to-be graduates and/or alumni degree holders,” Oldham wrote in an email. “An undergraduate degree provides valuable skills that translate to the job market. While employers prefer to train new hires on the operations and procedures required for the specific job, employers hire college-educated employees because of the strengths, values and intellectual training inherent in an arduous academic program.”

Hayley Bishop, Plan II and chemical engineering sophomore, said she thought the difference between degree-holders and non-degree holders would be wider because of the high value employers place on degrees.

“That sounds less than I would have thought,” Bishop said. “I would think that if someone graduates with a university degree versus someone who doesn’t complete a university degree, no matter where from, they would make more than $150,000 more than the person who didn’t complete the degree.”

Oldham, however, cautioned that varying salaries do not necessarily correlate with job satisfaction or happiness.

“The value of graduation is most often made at a personal level,” Oldham said. “In your example, an economics major may secure employment in a corporate setting with a higher salary than a psychology student in a public service career; however, the value that each places on her salary and career satisfaction depends on her personal values, goals and needs.”