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CU-Boulder One-Year-Out Alumni Survey Results: 1998 and 1999

Background
In 1998, CCHE (the Colorado Commission on Higher Education) began requiring institutions to survey undergraduate and graduate alumni who had received degrees one year prior. For the first year, CCHE provided the questionnaire items and a specified format for reporting the labor-force results. In 1999 CCHE dropped the requirement. CU-Boulder, however, decided to continue to collect and report on this information, and to look at how the 1999 findings compare to the 1998 results.

In spring of 1998 CU-Boulder's office of planning, budget, and analysis surveyed a sample of bachelor's and post-bachelor's degree recipients who graduated between summer 1996 and spring 1997. In 1999 we surveyed bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients who graduated between summer 1997 and spring1998. The one-page, self-mailing questionnaire consists of seven questions about current employment, further education, and satisfaction with degree program. The questionnaire used in 1999 was identical to the original one used in 1998.

Highlights

  • In spring of 1999, about one-quarter of the probably-reachable survey sample of both undergraduate and graduate alumni responded to the One-Year-Out Alumni survey. This was about 4 percentage points lower than the response rate obtained for both groups in 1998.
  • Results for both bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients have changed little between 1998 and 1999. .In both years, undergraduate and graduate alumni have been quite positive about their current status in the workforce and how their educational goals were met by their degree program at CU-Boulder.
    • They have been pleased with how their program of study at UCB helped then get or retain their current job. In both 1998 and 1999, 84% of bachelor's and 93% of post-bachelor's recipients said their program of study helped them get or keep their current employment.
    • In both 1998 and 1999, approximately 98% of both bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients said their UCB program of study "somewhat" or "definitely" met their educational goals.
  • Only two slight changes in results between 1998 and 1999 were noted:
    • Bachelor's recipients in 1999 were more likely than 1998 bachelor's recipients to say their program "definitely" helped them get or keep their current employment.
    • In 1999, both bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients were more likely to say that their program of student "defnitely" met their educational goals than they were in 1998..

Population, sample and response rates
The population consisted of all degree recipients who graduated during the specified period. Our "survey population" was recipients for whom the alumni foundation had purportedly current addresses on file; in 1998 this was approximately 90% of all degree recipients. We sampled those who had non-missing address information, drawing roughly equal numbers of bachelor's ('98, n=816, '99 n=888) and post-bachelor's ('98, n=785, '99, n=794) degree recipients in each survey year.

Even though the alumni foundation addresses were considered current, the proportion of mailings returned with unknown addresses was quite high, especially for the bachelor's degree recipients (17% in '98, 14% in '99, versus 9% in '98 and 12.5% in '99 for post-bachelors). For this reason, we present the response rate as the percentage responding of the undergraduate and graduate samples with known good addresses -- i.e., those whose mailed questionnaires were not returned to us by the post office. 

In the last survey cycle questionnaires were mailed on March 10, 1999. A reminder postcard was sent to all sample members six days later, and a re-mail of the questionnaire was sent to non-respondents six weeks after the initial mailing. This method achieved an overall response rate of 26% for the undergraduate alumni and 28% for the graduate alumni, which is between 10-15 percentage points lower* than what we would have expected from experience, given the two follow-ups, and a slight drop from 1998.

See the table of population, sample and response rates

Cautions
Survey respondents represent only about 25% of the probably-reachable survey sample for both bachelor's and post-bachelor's degree recipients, and we cannot judge how non-respondents and unreachables might differ from those who did respond. In addition, we have good reason to believe that many CU-Boulder alumni do not settle into their eventual employment, or even start to pursue further study, until more than one year after graduation. This is characteristic of any university with large numbers of students in liberal arts as opposed to professional fields. Therefore, we urge great caution in interpreting the results reported here.

Summary of 1998 and 1999 findings--for bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients---by item

Overall, the Tables of Results show that both undergraduate and graduate alumni's responses have changed little between 1998 and 1999. All results for 1998 and 1999 are discussed in detail in this section, in order of item number. Although little significant change was detected between years, patterns of change from one year to the next and differences in how bachelor's versus post-bachelor's degree recipients answered each item across the two years are discussed. The two items showing a significant change are discussed in more detail in the last section below.

    Question 1:
  • Approximately one-quarter of one-year-out bachelor's degree  recipients in both 1998 and 1999 were enrolled or admitted to a graduate-level degree granting institution at the time of the survey.
  • About 15% of post-bachelor's degree recipients, in both years, had gone on for further education at this point.
    Question 2
  • In both years, bachelor's degree recipients were enrolled in or admitted to the following areas of study: 8% in medicine, 4-6% in law, 1-2% in business, and 15% in all other areass.
  • About 15% of bachelor's and 12-17% of post-bachelor's degree recipients were enrolled in "other" post-graduate degree programs in these two years (which were described in the questionnaire as "engineering, humanities, social science, natural science, teaching, etc.").
  • The field of medicine and health was the second most frequently chosen category by bachelor's degree recipients (8%) in both years and by post-bachelor's recipients (2%) in 1999.
    Questions 1,3, and 4 combined
  • In both years, one-year-out post-bachelor's degree recipients have had a slightly larger presence in the workforce than bachelor's degree recipients (1998: post-BAs 80%, BAs 73%; 1999: post-BAs 83%, BAs 79%). 
  • There was a very slight increase in the percentage of both bachelor's and post-bachelor's degree recipients involved in the workforce between 1998 and 1999.
    • The presence of one-year-out bachelor's recipients in the workforce increased by 6 percentage points between 1998 (73%) and 1999 (79%). Post-bachelor's recipients in the workforce increased by 3 percentage points between 1998 (80%) and 1999 (83%). These increases were largely due to an increase in the regular full-time workforce participation rate for both bachelor's and post-bachelor's degree recipients between 1998 and 1999.
  • In 1999, 4% of both bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients were unemployed and seeking employment.
    Questions 1,3, and 4--by enrolled/not:
    This table shows the same information and trends as the one above, with additional enrollment status information. One slight change worth noting in the additional data is:
  • A slightly higher proportion of "enrolled" bachelor's degree recipients (16%) were working in the regular workforce part-time in 1999 compared to1998 bachelor's survey respondents (7%).
    Question 4b:
  • For those working 30 or more hours per week when we surveyed them, post-bachelor's degree recipients obtained their jobs faster than bachelor's degree recipients in both years. On average, 45% of employed bachelor's recipients obtained their first job by the time they graduated, versus 55-60% of employed post-bachelor's recipients.
    Question 5:
  • Approximately 70% of post-bachelor's degree recipients in both 1998 and 1999 said that their UCB program of study "definitely helped" them to get and/or retain their current job.
  • For bachelor's degree recipients, there was a statistically significant increase in the percent who said their program of study "definitely" helped them to get and/or retain their job: from 43% in 1998 to 54% in 1999).
    Question 6
  • In both 1998 and 1999 more post-bachelor's degree recipients (avg: 93%) than bachelor's degree recipients (avg: 70%) have been in a job that is in the "same" field or in a field "related" to their program of study. 
  • For the bachelor's recipients, an average of 15% in both years have said they are in a different field "by choice" and another 15% have said they are in a different field "not by choice." For the post-bachelor's recipients, these proportions are much smaller--with about 3% saying they are in a different field "by choice" and another 3% in a different field "not by choice."
    Question 7:
    This question, on meeting educational goals, was answered by all survey respondents. Results showed a significant increase between 1998 and 1999 of both bachelor's and post-bachelor's degree recipients saying that their program of study "definitely" met their educational goals.
  • 57% of bachelor's recipients in 1999 said their program of study "definitely" met their educational goals, up from 47% in 1998; and 65% of post-bachelor's recipients in 1999 reported this, up from 54% in 1998.
    Open-ended comments for Question 7, meeting educational goals -- 1999 results only:
  • 27% of the bachelor's degree respondents commented on the rating they gave to this item, and 17% of post-bachelor's respondents provided a comment on question 7.
  • For both bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients, approximately one-third of the comments were from those who reported that their program "definitely" met their goals, and about two-thirds were from those who reported that their program "somewhat" met their educational goals. Less than 10% of the comments from both bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients were from those who said their program did not meet their educational goals.
  • Comments from those who reported their educational goals were "definitely" met were mostly positive (BAs: 80%, post-BAs: 100%). They included statements about how well their education prepared them for their specific career or the working world--such as the following:
    • Post-BA alum: "I received an MS in Civil Engineering with a concentration in Construction Management and am currently employed as a construction manager in the Denver area. My degree is 100% the reason for my current employment and I am very satisfied with the euducation I received."
    • Post-BA alum: "My undergrad experience and relationships I made with professors got me into grad school, which got me into a career. My grad program was excellent."
    • BA alum: "I was a biology major and now I'm working in an immunology lab and applying to medical school."
    • BA alum: "I believe I got the most out of CU. The Psychology department is outstanding, which certainly strengthened my grad school applications (I'm in a PhD program in Social Psychology). I absolutely loved my psych classes and apply what I learned at CU every day."
  • Comments for both bachelor's and post-bachelor's recipients who said their educational program "somewhat" met their goals were about half positive and half negative. In fact, many of the responses mentioned both good and bad aspects of the former student's educational experience at CU-Boulder or of the outcome of that experience.
    • Post-BA alum: "I believe the Telecom program to be great for interdisciplinary education (which it is); but it is lacking in the more technical, networking type of classes."
    • Post-BA alum: "Didn't think the teaching staff was "top-notch." Seemed as if the "tenure" staff was the worst. Grad students and new professors were most helpful. ..."
    • BA alum: "The BA program in Psychology does not have much relevant clinical or applied information -- that would have been very useful to have!"
    • BA alum: "More emphasis on internships, how your degree applies to real life, resume writing for your specific degree, companies in the area who hire from your degree, etc. - are needed!! We need ways to communicate with alumni who have graduated in the same field!"

 

Highlights of Major Changes between 1998 and 1999

Although little change was noted in how alumni responded between the first and second survey year, two of the survey items, as noted above, showed a significant increase in the proportion of alumni in 1999 compared to 1998, who were "definitely" satisfied with how their educational program had served them.

  1. For Question 5: "Has your educational program helped you get or keep your current employment?" --
    • The 1999 bachelor's degree recipients (54%) were more likely than 1998 bachelor's degree recipients (43%) to say that their program had "definitely" helped them to keep their current employment.
  2. For Question 7: "Overall, did your program of study at CU-Boulder meet your educational goals?" --
    • A higher percentage of both 1999 bachelor's (57%) and post-bachelor's (65%) degree recipients were more likely to say that their program of study "definitely" met their educational goals than were 1998 bachelor's (47%) and post-bachelors (54%) recipients.
  • The inter-relatedness of these two items and the pattern of improvement noted between 1998 and 1999 may represent a real increase in the applicability of one-year-out alumni's degree programs to their current employment. It may also be affected by the slight increase in the proportion of both bachelor's and post-bachelor's survey respondents who are currently in the workforce (see bullet 3, in section above: Qs1,3,4-combined).
  • However, we cannot know if these increases are real or due to the more positive (perhaps, more "employed") sample members responding to the survey.

 

Future Plans

Although response rates for the One-Year-Out Alumni survey have been much lower than desirable for both 1998 and 1999, we still think the survey provides valuable information on what recent CU-Boulder graduates are doing when they leave college and on how satisfied they are with the degree program they attended. Results for both bachelor's and post-bachelor's degree recipients have also been very consistent across the two years.

Thus we plan to continue to administer the survey every other spring, and add to our time series. These data will allow us to look at any trends occuring within these two populations. The time series will also provide a source of information for our institution and others on what CU-Boulder graduates are doing one year after they graduate.

 

For a more indepth look at what CU-Boulder's undergraduate alumni are doing four years after they graduate, see the1998 Four-Year-Out Alumni survey report, which also includes changes over time in results from survey years 1990 through 1998.



*Footnote:  Response rates (rr) in both 1998 and 1999 were lower than what we expected from experience. The response rates for 1999 were also slightly lower than those for 1998. We suspect at least two factors may have contributed to these low responses rates.

  • In both years, the proportion with bad addresses may have been even larger than that determined from post office returns.
  • In 1999, we sent out the re-mail two weeks later than we'd initially planned. Normally the re-mail is sent four weeks after the initial mailing. This later mail-out date apparently contributed to lowering the response rates even further from what we obtained in 1998 (bachs: '98 rr=29%, '99 rr=25.5%; post-bachs: '98 rr=32%, '99 rr=28%). 

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Last revision 08/02/02


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