CU alumni report high satisfaction, earnings in systemwide survey

By Staff

University of Colorado alumni report high satisfaction rates with the education they received, in addition to earning considerably more than the average for college graduates, according to data from the first systemwide survey of alumni.

Some 96 percent of alumni across the four campuses indicated they were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their CU education. Undergraduate degree holders have a median income of $68,000, compared with the average of $48,800.

The online survey, conducted in late April and May by Keating research, saw a nearly 6 percent response rate, almost double what was expected by surveyors. Some 15,225 surveys were completed out of the 268,500 sent to alumni for whom the university has email addresses. Nearly two-thirds earned a bachelor’s degree, 20 percent earned a master’s and the remainder earned doctorates, law degrees or medical degrees.

CU administrators and the survey firm on Wednesday presented a slice of the findings to the CU Board of Regents at its annual summer retreat.

“We do a lot of surveying of alumni in various units across the university, but this is the first big-picture look at how CU performs collectively,” said CU President Bruce D. Benson. “The results demonstrate what I know from personal experience and many others know either through their experience or anecdotally – that the value of a CU degree is extremely high and it is a ticket to higher earnings and greater opportunity.”

Benson said it also shows that CU serves the state.

About 61 percent of respondents live in Colorado. The next-largest contingents came from California and Texas.

“With such a large response rate we have a really rich data set,” said Keating Research President Chris Keating. “What we’re showing you today is really just the tip of the iceberg.”

The survey had results from a wide age range, from recent graduates to those from 40 years ago or more.

One of the surprising findings was the high number of alumni who work in a field related to their area of study at CU, said Vice President for Communication Ken McConnellogue, who guided the project along with Vice President for Finance and CFO Todd Saliman.

Just over 50 percent of respondents reported that their job is strongly related to their area of study and another 34 percent said it is somewhat related. The highest correlation came in health care, where 71 percent reported their education was strongly related to their job. Art, design and entertainment was next, with 66 percent, followed by science, technology and engineering at 61 percent. The lowest percentage came in the service and recreational fields, with 13 percent.

“There is a common narrative that people will change careers several times in their working lives, but these data show that CU alumni are largely putting their degrees to work in the fields in which they studied,” McConnellogue said.

Some 87 percent of responders agreed that the benefits of a CU education outweighed the cost. Additionally, about 95 percent said they view the university favorably.

McConnellogue told the regents the plan is to share the data with campuses, which can use it for a variety of purposes, from accreditation to alumni engagement.

“We still have a lot to learn from the data, but the initial impression is that a CU education is highly valuable in several ways,” he said.