Is college degree ticket to "Great Life?"

image of happy technical college graduatesA recent Gallup and Purdue University study, “Great Jobs Great Lives,” drew attention to long-term success and quality of life for college graduates. Researchers focused on worker engagement and well-being for 29,560 graduates across the U.S. However, the results do not reflect graduates of two-year community or technical colleges. For that, you have to dig deep into the report. Associate degree holders were studied separately with only 1,557 respondents.

Results showed that 39 percent of four-year college graduates employed full time (excluding the self-employed) are engaged in the workplace. Whether you graduate from a state university, for-profit private college or Ivy League university doesn’t affect how engaged you are. In fact, the same amount of two-year degree holders indicated they are engaged in the workplace.

Gallup partnered with Healthways to create the Well-Being 5 View to measure well-being using these elements: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. Only 11 percent of bachelor’s degree holders are thriving in all five elements of well-being. According to their study six percent of associate degree graduates are thriving in all five areas.

So, how do Wisconsin graduates fair in these measures? The Gallup Purdue study did not report results at a state-by-state level. However, the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) conducts graduate follow-up surveys each year and publishes longitudinal results with some indicators of success for associate degree holders in the state. The surveys do not include questions indicating workplace engagement or well-being, but they do indicate satisfaction with education received and employment success for these graduates.

What we do know

According to the 2013 Graduate Follow-Up Survey 97 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their training. Of the 12,101 graduate respondents in the labor force, 89 percent are employed. For the past 15 years, 86 percent or more of WTCS graduates were employed within six months after graduation with 74 percent in fields related to their education. Five years after graduation, these graduates are making 48 percent more than they did in the first year.

As for the long-term look, 91 percent of 2005-06 graduates said their technical college training was important or very important in beginning their career. Almost 90 percent of these respondents said they would definitely recommend technical college to others.

Are these graduates engaged in their workplace? Do they have a great job and a great life? Let’s take a look.

Adam Hornby, a 2009 graduate of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, is a service technician for a farm implement dealer. Adam likes the problem solving and challenges he faces at work. "Every day is different and each job is a little different whether it is a hydraulic problem, or electrical or engine malfunction," he explained.

Earnestine Daugherty, a 1996 graduate of Milwaukee Area Technical College, is a health unit coordinator at Froedtert Hospital. "I really enjoy the job," Ernie said. "I feel for people who are sick or have loved ones in the hospital. I know it helps if someone can lend an encouraging word and let them know that someone cares. I like to be that person.”

These are just two of the many stories you can read about WTCS alumni. You can easily do your own informal research by asking them yourself. There’s a good chance you know someone who graduated from a Wisconsin Technical College.