ABOR demonstrates the value of a college degree

The Fiscal Year 2020 Alumni Wages Report from the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) showed the financial value of earning a college degree between all three public state universities: ASU, NAU and UArizona.

ABOR Chair Lyndel Manson, who represents northern Arizona, voiced her support for the report in a press release. Manson noted there are varying benefits that accompany a college degree. 

“The benefits of a university degree are clear,” Manson said. “Individuals with a degree not only command higher salaries but also drive the prosperity of our state’s economy.”

Manson further explained college graduates have better opportunities in the job market and contribute significantly to the state’s tax base. ABOR is committed to increasing the educational feat in Arizona, especially with the rapidly changing workforce.

Arizona@Work is a statewide workforce development network that has recently released a roadmap for the next generation. The roadmap ensures it will innovate its workforce as globalization and technology change career paths. Manson explained it is important to have a more educated workforce. 

According to the fiscal report, an individual with a graduate degree would earn an estimated $69,902, and a bachelor’s degree would earn about $52,077. However, individuals who do not pursue a college education after high school would earn about $31,371. Even after including student debt into the estimated cost, graduates are more likely to be employed and have greater earning power.

Graduates are the driving force behind Arizona’s economy, Manson said. Another news release from ABOR reported undergraduates who live in Arizona brought about $14.9 billion in wages, and graduates earned an additional $7 billion.

NAU graduate and Advanced Media Lab (AML) art director Graham Hagerty earns approximately $40,000 with a degree in graphic design, which took him about three and a half years to complete. ABOR’s report stated college degrees help graduates find potential work in their field. Hagerty voiced similar beliefs.

“Getting a college education will obviously give you an upper hand in the workforce,” Hagerty said. “But how much do you have to pay for that, is the question.”

A college degree is another cause of student debt, Hagerty said. While college graduates could have no problem finding a job related to their degree that pays them an average salary, Hagerty said he wondered about their student loans. College graduates are often paying student loans and making monthly rent payments. 

Different learning styles may also affect individuals’ decision to attend college, Hagerty said. As a student, he said he was more of a hands-on learner; people who learn similarly are still expected to sit in classrooms and listen to lectures. He explained colleges should have classes that teach students technical skills for a specific job, much like a trade school.

NAU graduate Leslie Colunga completed her education in three years, with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a classical studies minor. Her yearly salary is approximately $25,000.

Colunga agreed with Hagerty that going to college helped her get a job, rather than entering the workforce with a high school diploma alone. Colunga’s degree has helped her land a teaching position at a high school. However, she said she believed her degree did not benefit her financially. Colunga said her teaching position was not enough to pay off her student loans or consitently cover her monthly expenses.

Colunga agreed with Hagerty that her college education was expensive, and that factor has deterred people from continuing their education. It is unecessary to get a degree for certain careers, she said.

“Some of these degrees that are inherent can just be completed at a trade school or an apprenticeship,” Colunga said.

Another reason people do not attend universities is because only the upper class can afford it, Colunga said.  The working class tends to view college as an unattainable dream, she said, and there is large generational gap between the upper class and the working class. Other factors include financial costs and student loans, she said. 

However, both Hagerty and Colunga acknowledged ABOR’s goal to increase educational attainment, adding it would be beneficial to many Arizonans. Having more college graduates would help the economy and boost people’s motivation to go to college. 

The fiscal report mentioned ABOR’s New Economy Initiative (NEI), which is designed to improve educational attainment in Arizona and promote the state’s competitiveness with decisive investments in areas of strength for all three public universities. According to the Arizona Daily Sun, NAU has already decided to invest in its health care programs. Forest ecology, forest health and land management are potential programs that may be included in NEI goals.

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