Oh, The Places You Went! A Look at Southwestern Oregon Community College Graduates Using Census Post-Secondary Education Outcome Data

by Guy Tauer

June 28, 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. At the south coast, there is data for Southwestern Oregon Community College. The data for community colleges, including Southwestern, is published for three graduating cohorts:2001-2005, 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 one 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 some of the places the graduates from Southwestern Oregon Community College 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 2011-2015 period. For this example, we will look at graduates at the five-year post-graduation period. Of the 43,274 who earned their associate degrees in that time among partner institutions in Oregon where earnings data are available, 1,390 were awarded from Southwestern Oregon Community College. At Southwestern Oregon Community College for all programs, there were 1,839 associate degree graduates, but there is only payroll and employment data for about three-quarters of those graduates. The other 449 associate 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 five years post-graduation. More detailed program information is available. For example, median earnings for allied health diagnostic, intervention, and treatment professions program graduates from Southwestern Oregon Community College were $44,003 one year post-graduation, compared with $61,372 for those in registered nursing, nursing administration, nursing research, and clinical nursing programs.
Graph showing Southwestern Oregon Community College Associate Degree 2011-2015 Cohort Median Earnings Five Years Post-Graduation

Data for this cohort of associate degree graduates shows the highest number of degrees awarded were in liberal arts and sciences, general with 666 graduates with earnings. This program had median annual earnings five years after graduation at $39,470. The highest average earnings were garnered by graduates in health professions and related programs, with median earnings of $72,815. The second greatest number of associate degrees where earnings data are available were awarded  in the culinary arts, entertainment, and personal services programs, with 187 associate degrees earned. However, these graduates had median earning of $30,360.

While we only looked at median earnings for this comparison, earnings at the 25th and 75th percentiles 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 culinary 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 187 culinary, entertainment and personal services associate degree graduates, the top two industries that employed those graduates were accommodation and food services (86), and retail trade (23) and both of those industries pay less than the all-industry average.

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 associate degree from Southwestern Oregon Community College. For all instructional programs, about 60% of those, or 845, had Oregon earnings in their fifth year post graduation. About 18% or 245 had earnings in the balance of the Pacific Region. Mountain region was home to about 7% or 98 associate degree graduates from the 2011-2015 cohort at Southwestern Oregon Community College. The share of graduates who had earnings in Oregon five years post-graduation varied from a high of 78% in the health professions and related programs to around 45% for both homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting, and related protective services programs as well as in computer and information sciences and related support services programs.
Table showing Southwestern Oregon Community College Associate Degree Graduates 2011-2015

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.

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