HOUGHTON - This week, graduates will leave the school they've grown accustomed to over the last few years and leave college life behind.
But if they're a student at Michigan Technological University, they may be part of the more than 90 percent of students who get a job following graduation.
Last year, the placement rate for Michigan Tech was 94.6 percent, a common outcome for the university which boasts high placement rates year-to-year despite a tough economy.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Michigan Technological University students listen to speaker Chang Park during Saturday’s midyear commencement ceremony.
A contributing factor to the placement rate is the interest companies have in Tech graduates, President Glenn Mroz told the Board of Control Dec. 9.
The fall Career Fair at Michigan Tech included 720 recruiters representing 245 organizations interested in meeting and interviewing Tech students in need of an internship, co-operative experience or full-time work following college.
About 4,200 interviews were scheduled for the more than 3,000 students who attended the fair.
"As you may know, we are not on the way to anyplace else," Mroz said. "You really have to make an effort to be here. It shows the value recruiters put on our students."
Additionally, the starting pay for a Tech graduate with a bachelor's degree topped out at $103,000 on the high end with an average of $55,000 among graduates.
"Employers measure us by the performance of our alumni working at their companies," said Jim Turnquist, director of career services at Michigan Tech. "We have a reputation for excellence."
Starting salaries among different majors varied, as in 2011 a Tech graduate with a software engineering degree averaged starting at $67,000, while biomedical engineers began at $60,000 and electrical engineers began at $58,000. All three tower over the national average of $51,171 in 2011, per the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Tech gets its results when students report their progress back to the university after graduation. Mroz said about 70 percent of last year's class reported back to the university, which he called "an amazing number of students."
"To say the least, this is comforting news for all of us at Michigan Tech because it's a validation of all the work the students and faculty (do)," he said.
The student/faculty success story is a reflection of the nation's need for graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Mroz said he once heard a company representative tell a group of students that it is not a competition for talent, but rather a war for talent.
Policy makers struggle with decisions of how to increase the number of credential graduates while spending less money on higher education.
"Eventually, I think the debate will mature to the point where people will realize access and affordability mean really nothing if students do not graduate with confidence to move onto what's next professionally for them," he said.
Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Snyder spoke about the need for college-educated graduates working in Michigan.
According to the Associated Press in a Dec. 1 article, Snyder said there is a current imbalance which "creates a population of young talent that cannot find work in Michigan, is saddled with debt and is ultimately forced to leave the state."
Snyder said Michigan needs a new approach to keeping college graduates in the state while meeting the needs of Michigan-based companies. While at Delta College, Snyder unveiled his talent development plan in hopes the state will "rethink education, job training and economic development if it hopes to drastically lower an unemployment."
"Obviously, you can't fill every job, because there will always be openings," Snyder said in the Associated Press story. "But if you start saying, 'Can we cut that number in half?' that would drop the unemployment rate by a whole percentage point. And that's a lot of jobs and major improvement."
With a large percentage of graduates of Michigan colleges leaving for other states, Snyder expressed the need for students to seek degrees in computer programming, math, health care and engineering, much of which are offered at Michigan Tech, and are areas where the state isn't producing enough graduates to fill the need, per the AP.