NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Disclosing Recent Grad Wages May Help Prospective Students

February 18, 2013

The value of a college education, given skyrocketing costs and a mismatched labor market, is receiving increased attention as federal and state officials look to make colleges more accountable for what happens after graduation, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • An expected bill by Sens. Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio aims to require states to track the average salaries of college graduates and provide the figures to prospective students who could then compare salaries by college and major.
  • The bill does not provide specific guidance on how this information about graduate wages, which would likely be submitted by employers and colleges separately, will be assembled.
  • Virginia has already started publishing wages by college and program. It implemented the program using Social Security numbers to track graduates after college.

Opponents of this new push to introduce market forces into the academic arena state that a database of such information is unnecessary and even unconstitutional. School officials claim that a prospective student shouldn't need a database to tell him or her that a major in fine arts won't garner a high wage. Privacy advocates are concerned about the possibility of compiling such a large stock of personally identifying and private information.

  • With a large number of recent graduates unemployed, providing more information may be a way to ensure that students know what return on investment they can expect from their college education.
  • The Department of Education has indicated that transparency in higher education is a priority for President Obama during his second term and has affirmed that the Obama administration will continue to develop the "College Scorecard," which will add salary information for graduates and average debt load to existing data on costs, graduation rates and loan repayment rates.
  • Ten states have begun or will begin to release data on recent graduate wages by college and major.

The information disclosures in general fail to account for jobs that vary by location, self-employed graduates or those who work for the government. Still, California community colleges will join Florida community colleges, Texas and Colorado in releasing this information soon.

Source: Ruth Simon and Michael Corkery, "Push to Gauge Bang for Buck from College Gains Steam," Wall Street Journal, February 11, 2013.


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