Alaska editorial: By the numbers

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Alaska is looking for public-education results in its economy.

Since at least 2005, state officials have tracked Alaska’s high school graduates obtaining college degrees and beginning careers in the state.

Between then and 2011, 49,000 students graduated from Alaska high schools. Seventy-seven percent of the high school students during that period graduated; 6 percent earned their GEDs and 16 percent didn’t receive a diploma, according to Alaska Economic Trends, a publication of the Alaska Department of Labor.

Of those who graduated, 63 percent attended college, which means 37 percent did not. Sixty percent of the students enrolled in Alaska colleges, while 10 percent went to college in Washington state or Oregon and 6 percent chose California or Arizona colleges. All in all, Alaska students are studying in every state in the nation.

Of the 49,000 high school graduates, 21,000 participated in job training or apprenticeship programs — in some cases in addition to taking college courses.

Looking specifically at the Class of 2005, 27 percent graduated from college. Fifteen percent are enrolled still; 29 percent attended, but aren’t enrolled currently, and another 29 percent didn’t attend college.

Between 3 to 5 percent of the ‘05 students gave up their Alaska residency. Those percentages don’t include students who went to college or joined the military and retained their residency. But, even with the loss of students that age to the state, Alaska gains more than it loses in that age bracket. Graduates from other states come to Alaska.

Alaska graduated 6,200 high school students in ‘05. About 5,770 worked — at least for a time — in Alaska. Of the 1,685 college graduates from the 2005 class, the engineers and health diagnosing and treating practitioners earn the highest, between $43,000 and $53,000 a year. Of those who didn’t attend college and instead trained for the construction trades, they average about $47,000 annually. Most of the 2005 classmates who are currently employed work in the construction trades.

The mineral extraction workers without college earn an average $52,000.

The college graduates find their earnings increase significantly beyond those without degrees the longer they are out of college.

Forty percent of the college graduates from ‘05 earned their degrees in Alaska, and 80 percent of those worked in Alaska in 2011. Or about 540 of the Alaska-educated college graduates in ‘05 stayed.

That means that 32 percent of Alaska’s most highly educated students in ‘05 who received their education in the state took Alaska jobs.

Alaska was successful in educating almost 9 percent of its 2005 high school graduates through college. The figure doesn’t include ‘05 Alaska high school grads who earned their college degrees elsewhere and might return to the state.

As Alaska tracks classes from 2006 and beyond to compare with 2005, it will begin to see trends and how those trends reflect on Alaska’s education system and programs implemented to encourage students not only to attend college, but to go to colleges in Alaska and then work in the state.

That’s the way to keep Alaska-grown in Alaska.

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