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Report shows increasing alumni wages at Northern Arizona University

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Blue and Gold at NAU

Students are wrapped by bright gold leaves in this September photo as they use a crosswalk on the Northern Arizona University campus on the first day of fall.

The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) recently released a report on alumni wages at the three public universities in the state.

The report found that 242,544 bachelor’s degree recipients from Arizona public universities (Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona) were employed in the state in 2020 and earned $16.35 billion in state wages. A total of 88,111 graduate students from those institutions earned $7.57 billion in Arizona wages. In all, graduates from Arizona public universities paid $1.7 billion in state taxes.

“While these numbers are staggering,” George Raudenbush, ABOR’s director of institutional analysis, said in a presentation on the report, “we have every reason to expect that this contribution will continue to increase as the number of degrees conferred by our institutions has been rapidly expanding.”

He said the number of degrees conferred by Arizona public universities more than tripled over the last 30 years covered in the report (“from under 10,000 to 30,000” undergraduate degrees and “from just over 4,000 to more than 12,000” graduate degrees, Raudenbush said).

NAU has reported a total of 24,168 undergraduate and 4,550 graduate students for the fall 2021 semester. In fiscal year 2021, it awarded 6,887 bachelor’s degrees and certificates, and 1,691 master’s or doctorate degrees and certificates.

A “key finding from this report,” Raudenbush said, “is that the median Arizona wages for alumni are increasing over time.”

That was the case for all three state universities.

NAU graduate income increased gradually, yet consistently, from 2011 to 2020 for both undergraduate and graduate students. The median wage for undergraduates 10 years post-graduation was $46,682 in 2011 and $59,656 in 2020. For those with a graduate degree, median income 10 years post-graduation was $56,591 in 2011 and $66,559 in 2020. These numbers are all lower than comparable metrics at the other state institutions.

For the universities as a whole, persistence in the Arizona workforce tended to decline over time. Resident students were more likely to stay in the state workforce -- though, as with nonresidents, that number decreased over time.

Around 75% of resident degree-holders from Arizona public universities, both undergraduates and graduates, were employed in-state one year after graduation. Thirty years after graduation, that number was 35% for undergraduates and 25% for graduate degree-holders.

About 20% of nonresident degree recipients were in the Arizona workforce a year after graduation, dropping to 11% at the 30-year mark.

Raudenbush said he wasn’t sure if these patterns were comparable to those seen in other states.

NAU bachelor’s degree recipients who took on debt to pay for their education are paying an average of 5% of their monthly wages in student loan debt payments, according to the report. Graduate degree-holders are paying a median of 6.9%. Raudenbush said the recommended payment ratio is less than 10% of income -- which all three universities were below, even for graduate degree-holders.

He also noted that Arizona’s public universities “have a considerable portion of our students that do not have to take student loans to complete their degree,” who were not included in these percentages.

Education degrees contributed the most to the Arizona workforce for both graduate and undergraduate degree recipients at NAU, according to the report (1,469 undergraduates with Arizona wages and 2,746 graduates). Median wages for education degree-holders were $53,219 for undergraduates and $65,544 for graduates. The second-highest contribution for both levels came from degrees in business, management and marketing, with 1,389 undergraduates earning Arizona wages and 408 graduates. Median wages for this category were $67,306 and $93,838, respectively.

The next highest contributor for undergraduate degree holders was the liberal arts, general studies and humanities category, followed by health professions and social sciences. For graduate degrees, the next highest categories were health professions, English degrees and social sciences.

The report is currently generated by taking the rosters of Arizona public universities since 1990 and matching them with information from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. The aggregated and de-identified data is then used as the basis for the report.

Raudenbush concluded his presentation by saying ABOR was working with the U.S. Census Bureau so that next year's report would include nationwide data, including on alumni residency and income.

The 2020 alumni wage report can be found on ABOR's website.

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