Oh, The Places You Went! A Look at Southern Oregon University’s Recent Graduating Cohort Using Census Post-Secondary Education Outcome Data

by Guy Tauer

June 21, 2024

June is graduation season for many, and this year that milestone was reached by my niece in high school and my daughter in college. These bittersweet transitions evoke these words written by Dr. Suess in his final book. “You won’t lag behind because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass all the gang and soon take the lead. Wherever you fly you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you’ll top all the rest…. Oh, the places you’ll go”!

Attending those graduations and looking out onto the sea of graduation caps shading bright, hopeful faces made me think about those places all those freshly minted graduates will go. Back in Dr. Suess’ time, we could only wonder where they did go when they left college and transitioned to the workforce. There might have been an alumni association that kept track of some graduates and had anecdotes about where graduates ended up after college. But there wasn’t comprehensive information about all the places, the locations, earnings, or industries where those graduates have gone.

Now we have Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) experimental tabulations developed by the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program at the U.S. Census Bureau. PSEO data provide earnings and employment outcomes for college and university graduates by degree level, degree major, and post-secondary institution. These statistics are generated by matching university transcript data with a national database of jobs, using state-of-the-art confidentiality protection mechanisms to protect the underlying data, according to the Census Bureau.

We can look at different graduating year cohorts to compare different groups of graduates or look at all graduates from an institution. In the Rogue Valley, there is data for both Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University. The data for community colleges, including Rogue Community College is published for just two graduating cohorts: 2006-2010 and 2011-2015. Oregon universities have data for two-year cohorts beginning in 2001 through 2018. You can search by degree level at universities, from bachelor’s though doctoral degrees. For community colleges, destination flow data are available for certificate programs through associated degree graduates. Graduates are also tracked through the five and 10-year post graduation period.  

Let’s dive into locally available data from the PSEO Employment Outcomes Explorer to find out a bit more about all the places the graduates from Ashland’s Southern Oregon University went. For this analysis, we are going to look more closely at the most recent cohort, those that earned their bachelor’s degree in the 2016-2018 period. Of the 36,403 who earned their bachelor's degrees in that time among partner institutions in Oregon where earnings data are available, 1,604 were awarded from Southern Oregon University.

At Southern Oregon University for all programs, there were 2,473 bachelor’s degree graduates, but there is only payroll and employment data for about two-thirdsof those graduates. The other 869 bachelor’s degree graduates had no or very low earnings observed. The graph displays the programs of study for those graduates where data are available as well as the median earnings for those graduates one year post graduation. More detailed program information is available. For example, median earnings for economics program graduates from Southern Oregon University were $30,914 one year post-graduation, rising to $48,861 at five years post-graduation.
Graph showing Southern Oregon University Bachelor's Degree Median Earnings One Year Post-Graduation

Data for this cohort of bachelor’s degree graduates shows the highest number of degrees awarded were in Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services with 329 graduates with earnings. This program was also the second highest earning, with median annual earnings one year after graduation at $41,593. The highest average earnings were garnered by graduates in the computer and information sciences program, with median earnings of $48,861. The second greatest number of bachelor's degrees awarded where earnings data are available was in the visual and performing arts program, with 210 bachelor's degrees earned. However, these graduates had median earnings of $25,378. While we only looked at median earnings for this comparison, earnings at the 25th and 75th percentile are also published to give a better idea of the range of wages earned by program of study area. Digging a little bit deeper we can see why graduates in the visual and performing arts might have lower median earnings compared with other program areas. We don’t know all the details like how many jobs these graduates had that were part-time, what occupation they worked in, or if their job required a bachelor’s degree in their program study area to qualify for that job. But we do know what industry they were employed in. For those 210 Visual and Performing Arts bachelor’s degree graduates, the top two industries that employed those graduates were retail trade (33) and accommodation and food services (32) with those industries paying less than the all- industry average. For the 432 Business, Management, Marketing and Related Support Services bachelor’s degree graduates, there are earnings data for 329 graduates. The top industry where these graduates were employed was professional, scientific, and professional services. These graduates were also employed in retail trade (41) and accommodation and food services (32) but the next three industries were relatively higher paying; finance and insurance (29); manufacturing (24); and public administration (20).

That answers some of the where are they working and what are they earning questions. Now let’s investigate where they went after they earned their bachelor’s degree from Southern Oregon University. For all instructional programs, two-thirds of those, or about 1,080 had Oregon earnings in their first year post graduation. About 18% or 295 had earnings in the balance of the Pacific Region. Mountain region was home about 4% or 69 bachelor's degree graduates from the 2016-2018 cohort at Southern Oregon University. The share of graduates who had earning in Oregon one year post graduation varied from a high of 82% in the Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services program to around 45% for Biologic and Biomedical Sciences and Communication, Journalism and Related Programs. The lowest share was the Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics program with 24% of graduates showing Oregon earnings one year post graduation.

As some of the college class of 2024 begin their transitions to the workforce when they graduate from a partner institution in one of the PSEO participating states, we’ll know some of the places they went, what industries they are working in, and how much they are earning in the coming years. More data can be found on the PSEO Explorer.
Table showing Southern Oregon University Bachelor's Degree Graduates 2016-2018

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