MADISON – As the spring commencement season draws to a close, more than 29,000 students have graduated from the University of Wisconsin System during the 2002-03 academic year.

These UW System graduates are now prepared to become part of Wisconsin’s workforce, further emphasizing the importance of public higher education to the state’s economy, according to UW System President Katharine C. Lyall.

“When one thinks of the UW System’s contribution to the economy, one usually considers our research, our UW-Extension work with agriculture and small businesses, our economic summits and our regional economic development efforts,” Lyall said. “But by far our biggest impact is the number of graduates we produce for the Wisconsin workforce.”

Most UW graduates stay in Wisconsin to work or attend graduate school, raise families and become productive, taxpaying citizens, Lyall said. Recent survey data show that more than 80 percent of Wisconsin residents who earn UW degrees stay in the state after graduation, as do nearly 20 percent of non-resident students.

“This results in a brain gain for Wisconsin,” Lyall said.

Three-quarters of this year’s UW graduates are entering the workforce having earned their bachelor’s degrees, while the rest offer expertise gained while completing master’s, Ph.D. or professional degrees, such as in law or medicine, Lyall said.

The UW System’s impact is even more pronounced when considering specific fields. For example, the UW System educates two of every three new K-12 teachers in Wisconsin and trains approximately 90 percent of the state’s pharmacists. In addition, the majority of UW nursing graduates will stay to live and work in the state upon graduation, helping to ease Wisconsin’s nursing shortage.

“Wisconsin’s economic development strategy must raise the state’s per capita income to at least the national average,” Lyall said. “UW graduates are an essential part of achieving this goal.”

Lyall said plans for the state’s economic future should also include an improved economic climate that will attract more businesses and college-educated workers. The UW System’s fourth statewide economic summit, to be held in Milwaukee this October, is designed to help the state achieve this goal. The summit, to be held Oct. 27-28 at the Midwest Airlines Center, will focus in part on health care and regional economic development.

The majority of UW graduates received their degrees last month; others graduated last December or will graduate later this summer.

Since the UW System was created in 1971, the 13 four-year campus and 13 freshman-sophomore UW Colleges have awarded nearly 730,000 degrees, Lyall said.

Media Contact

Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061