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Study Maps Alaska Students' Pathways After High School


Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Native American woman reading a book

Education and work experience lead to higher wages and employment, wage gaps persist

A study released by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) today examines the career and educational paths taken by 40,000 Alaska students after they left high school. The study sheds light on how students’ high school experiences and educational achievements relate to their college and career paths immediately after high school. It also highlights how academic readiness, educational attainment, and work experience influence early-career employment rates and wages.

“Policymakers and education stakeholders haven’t had access to this level of detail on the pathways students take to pursue education and careers after high school,” said Havala Hanson, coauthor of the study. “We also wanted to help high school students make decisions about their future by equipping them with information about what other Alaskans did in the first years after high school and where they ended up in their early careers.”

Alaska Students’ Pathways From High School to Postsecondary Education and Employment examines state and education and employment data for students who left public high schools in Alaska from 2005 to 2008. REL Northwest worked closely with the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD) on the data analysis for the study.

The study found that Alaska students followed more than 3,000 unique postsecondary pathways. Two-thirds of the students graduated from high school and most either enrolled in college or entered the workforce in the state immediately after graduation. Female students, White students, and urban students were more likely to enroll in college, but their male, Alaska Native, and rural counterparts enrolled in college at similar rates when they had similar academic and personal background characteristics.

“This finding suggests that if we were able to resolve some economic and educational disparities, we would expect to see the numbers of students pursuing higher education rise, especially for currently underrepresented groups,” said Hanson.

Students who attained higher levels of education tended to have higher employment rates and earn higher wages, but wage gaps existed within and across education levels between male and female students and between Alaska Native and White students.

“This study confirms that when Alaska students complete a career and technical credential or a four-year college degree, it makes a measureable difference to their employment rates and wages,” DOLWD Research Chief Dan Robinson said. “Disparities in the difference postsecondary training and education make, by gender and race, highlight the benefits follow-up research will have.”

REL Northwest and DOLWD are providing additional analysis of these data at the request of policymakers, studying wage gaps within occupations and closely examining the employment, wage, and education outcomes of rural students. They are also investigating whether students who earn degrees in Alaska are staying in the state or leaving after graduation.

Video and Infographic Accompany Study Findings

REL Northwest has developed an animated video and infographic to demonstrate how education and work experience impacted the wages and employment rates of all men and women, as well as Alaska Native men and women. The video also shares findings related to the wage gaps between men and women and White students and Alaska Native students.

Download the report and view the video and infographic.