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Survey indicates alumni are thriving and feel like family

By Amy Agronis on January 31, 2005 in University

A degree from UC Davis can double your income over the course of your career. That is one of the many findings of a recent study published by UC Davis Student Affairs and Research Information.

The Alumni Voices study aimed to assess current alumni attitudes about the campus, and what impacts their undergraduate experiences have had on their lives. One of the key findings in the resulting report shows that not only do UC Davis alumni make more money than the average Californian, but that they make twice as much, with a mean income of $93,092. In addition, half of those surveyed reported salaries of more than $70,000 a year.

The study is based on a summer 2003 survey sent out to every alumnus who graduated from UC Davis in 1973, 1983 and 1993. Of those contacted, a little more than 4,000 -- or 46 percent -- responded to questions about their incomes, number of degrees attained and overall satisfaction with their undergraduate education.

One out of every 300 Californians is a UC Davis graduate, making alumni a vital resource to the campus. Jennifer Barber, director of marketing and communications for alumni relations, said the survey will help guide future outreach efforts tied in with the comprehensive fundraising campaign currently under way.

"We have been taking the results of all of these surveys and looking at those as we are going into our business-planning mode for the next fiscal year," Barber said.

The data collected shows that students' level of satisfaction with UC Davis has not fallen over the years, even as campus undergraduate enrollment ballooned from 11,300 in 1973 to 17,300 in 1993. A steady 96 percent of alumni said they felt "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their undergraduate education. That figure compares with only 90 percent of Cornell University and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni, who responded to similar questions.

Satisfaction rates at UC Davis did not vary between men and women, nor was a difference found when factoring in which college respondents attended (Letters and Science, Agriculture or Engineering).

As a result of this high level of satisfaction, about 95 percent of alumni from each year said they "probably" or "definitely" would recommend that a high school senior like them attend UC Davis.

The study also found that a majority of UC Davis alumni actually view their relationship with the campus in familial terms. And despite the increase in undergraduate enrollment over the years, recent graduates are the most likely to classify their experience as a "family" one: 75 percent of the 2002 graduates, compared with 60 percent of those from 1973.

"We've tried to build into how we communicate that they are part of a family," Barber said. "From the day you decide to go to Davis, you're part of that."

One suggestion most alumni made was that the campus work to place a higher emphasis on undergraduate instruction. They said they would like to see teaching take precedence over faculty research, which they thought was the university's current top priority. Alumni from both MIT and Cornell had similar feedback for their schools, saying they thought teaching should be emphasized over research.

"We were perceived already to be giving considerable emphasis in that area, even though they wanted still more," said SARI administrative analyst Gillian Butler, who authored the report.

In addition, 6 percent of alumni said they would have liked more training in certain crucial workplace skills such as interpersonal communication, public speaking and how to work in a team setting.

Citing a summer 2004 national survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Butler said a desire for more emphasis on workplace skills was also found nationwide among college-educated Americans, regardless of their alma mater.

"I think those answers are a reflection on global values of higher education, rather than a reflection solely on this campus," she said.

However, 98 percent of respondents said they felt UC Davis prepared them well for continuing education. At least half of the alumni surveyed in each decade did go on to earn a post-graduate credential or degree, including 65 percent of the class of 1973.

The SARI report can be found at http://www.sariweb.ucdavis.edu.

Media contact(s)

Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, abagronis@ucdavis.edu

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