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WVU study shows more WV college grads staying

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A new study conducted by West Virginia University for the Higher Education Policy Commission shows that more students are graduating from public higher education institutions and more college graduates are employed in West Virginia.

The study, “From Higher Education to Work in West Virginia, 2014” shows that 2,500 more graduates were working in the state in 2014 than in 2013. Researchers attribute the increase in employment to an increase in available graduates for the workforce.

“The Commission has led a concerted effort to graduate more students from West Virginia’s colleges and universities since 2013,” said study co-author John Deskins, director of the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research, which operates in the College of Business and Economics. “As a result of having more graduates in West Virginia to choose from, some 2,500 more students were working in the state. That represents nearly a 5 percent increase in the number of graduates working in West Virginia compared to 2013 and is almost 10 percent higher than in 2010.”

 The study indicates that of the 124,358 students who graduated from public colleges and universities in West Virginia over the last decade, 58,730 were working in West Virginia in 2014. That’s a work participation rate of 47.2 percent.

“What the data tell us is that there are economic benefits of graduating more people to West Virginia’s economy,” said Dr. Eric Bowen, co-author of the study, “even if a portion of them leave the state.”

In-state students were far more likely to work in the state after graduation than out-of-state students, with nearly 62 percent of in-state students employed in West Virginia.

“West Virginia’s investments in higher education yield huge returns for the state’s economy, both in terms of the economic impact of our higher education institutions and the graduates they produce,” said Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the Commission.

Moreover, more students who have received PROMISE scholarships, 57.7 percent, or need-based grants from the Higher Education Grant Program, 65.7 percent, stay and work in West Virginia.

The majority of West Virginia’s higher education institution alumni are working in the health care field — 20,319 graduates, or 16 percent of total graduates. The business, management and marketing category was a close second with 18,612 graduates, approximately 15 percent of all graduates.

“The health care sector leading the way on hiring higher ed graduates is further evidence of the investment in this industry in the recent past,” Deskins said. “Health care has experienced substantial growth and we believe that growth will continue.”

 At 56.8 percent, women represent the majority of public higher education graduates in West Virginia over the past decade, and women exhibit a significantly higher work participation rate. The work participation rate for women is 51.8 percent. For men it’s 41.2 percent.

A significant income gap exists between men and women graduates who work in the state, with men earning 31 percent more than women, without accounting for differences in college major or the industry in which they are employed, according to the study.

“Industry trends, economic factors and associated data all tell us that the employment picture in West Virginia is in the midst of significant change,” Deskins said. “The evolution of labor markets at the local, statewide, national and global levels demands that the development of human capital in West Virginia evolves, too, and that is directly connected to the prosperity of our state. As we look to a better West Virginia, this is the kind of research that is so crucial in establishing better public policies surrounding higher education for the future.”

This report is released annually.

— Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @Sarah_E_Plummer

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