At its Tuesday work session, the UNC Board of Governors heard a report on a Gallup survey of 77,695 alumni from all 16 University of North Carolina system schools.
The survey measured outcomes for alumni of UNC system schools — their employment, income levels, feeling of connection to their university and views on the value of their UNC education.
Overall, the results were very positive.
Sixty-four percent of respondents said they strongly agreed their undergraduate education was worth the cost. That’s 11 percent higher than comparison groups from public institutions nationally and 14 percent higher than all college graduates nationally.
Respondents in the survey were also more likely to have pursued advanced degrees. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they ad completed postgraduate degrees.
Personal and household incomes were also higher among UNC system respondents.
The average annual personal income for UNC system alumni in the survey was $86,291 and the average household income $124,512. That’s more than $10,000 higher than college graduates nationally and higher than respondents from both public institutions and private, not-for-profit institutions.
“To me, this is the story we should have broadcast to the people of our state,” said UNC Board of Governors member Anna Spangler Nelson. “This is a tremendous value – we know it, we say it. This proves it.”
But board member Darrell Allison, one of the board’s few black members, had some questions about the demographic makeup of respondents.
Gallup confirmed that respondents to the survey skewed older and whiter — 77 percent white with the average age about 48.
Stephanie Marken, executive director of Education Research for Gallup, said those demographics reflect groups that tend to respond more to surveys and for whom universities tend to have contact information to provide to Gallup.
“We are looking at all living alumni for which they have contact information,” Marken said. “The university now would look very different demographically than it does historically. If we look at more recent graduates in our national sample they tend to be more diverse the younger we get.”
But that is the case across comparable studies using the same mode of contact, Marken said, which also use web-based surveys. That keeps the comparisons accurate.
“We use a very similar methodology when doing our national surveys, so we can compare,” Marken said.
The respondents skewing older as a whole does tend to affect questions like whether alumni believe their degree was worth the cost, Marken said. Older alumni have had more time to apply their degrees, take advantage of career opportunities, to advance and make more money, she said.
Gallup did break out data by individual institutions and provided that data to the institutions this week.
“I would say that we’re very pleased with it overall,” Smith said of the survey, though he did say he would like to see the respondents be more diverse and more reflective of the university’s actual diversity.
“But there has not traditionally been a lot of real world data that we’ve gotten, a lot of benchmarks we can look at,” Smith said. “We have to make decisions here and we want to have the fact, data and detail when we make them. We’re in the changing lives business. We want to be doing it as efficiently as we can. So when we get data that shows the UNC system is doing truly great things, that’s a great thing. It also helps us benchmark how we can get better.”
Read the full report on the survey here.