A new online tool from the University of Texas (UT) System aims to help students make more informed decisions about their education and future careers by offering comprehensive data on employment outcomes of UT graduates.
Launched October 8, seekUT was created in response to a 2012 task force recommendation to help students and families better make the connection between their financial investment in a college degree and subsequent financial gains.
Utilizing data collected by the UT System and the Texas Workforce Commission, seekUT offers students data on debt and affordability at all 14 UT System campuses for nearly 400 degree majors, as well as data on fields of employment and the average earnings of graduates based on data of about 210,000 UT graduates working full-time in Texas.
The hope is that the data in the tool will lead students and families to think differently about their futures and have a better idea of what to expect after graduation, said Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, whose office developed the tool.
“We’re really now just starting to have the data on what our students make after graduation, especially based on major,” Huie said. “I think [seekUT] provides them information that gives them context or perspective that they have never had before,” she said.
The tool can be used by current students to map out their career options or by future students deciding where to attend and what to study. For example, students can use the tool to compare earnings in fields of work related to their major, compare those earnings with graduates from other UT System schools, and see projected earnings for one, five or 10 years after graduation. Students can also use the tool to see data on available jobs related to that field in various Texas cities and to see how their student debt may factor into their post-college life.
SeekUT even shows students their projected monthly income levels in dollars as well as what percent of their monthly income would likely be contributed to repaying their student.
Karen Krause, executive director for the office of financial aid at UT Arlington, said seekUT provides “some realism with what the student can expect” after graduation and help “look at what really is the cost of a student loan over the life of the loan and repayment.”
Because the tool is so new, Krause said her office has not utilized it as widely as they plan to. But for now they have included a link to seekUT on their office’s website and are sharing it with students at orientation and similar events. Her office also plans to promote the tool on social media periodically to help remind students of their student loans.
“We’re trying to keep people thinking about the bigger picture of students loans,” including how much they borrow and will have to repay,” Krause said. “I like this tool because it’s dynamic with earnings … and it’s a tool we can encourage older students to use, as well as new students.”
And Huie and her team are constantly working to improve seekUT by seeking out information on UT students who leave Texas after graduation and other forms of national data. She said they also reach out to UT System students groups and organizations for feedback on the types of data and the way it is presented.
In early iterations of the tool, students were helpful at noting when information was or was not presented clearly and easily understood, as well as saying what data was important to them.
UT Dallas sophomore and Vice President of the school’s Student Government Nancy Fairbank, one of the seekUT student reviewers, said she was able to use the tool to help her decide on a political science major after seeing higher earnings in that field than social science. The tool has also helped her look into UT law schools and compare job availability and salaries for different regions of the state.
“Just seeing job availability combined with average student debt and average salaries gives student some real life numbers,” Fairbank said, noting that the monthly salary and long-term earnings data are particularly helpful or students.
And while there are some concerns that students will use the tool to determine their majors solely on potential earnings, Fairbank said she doesn’t think the tool “will push people into fields they are not passionate about.”
Is your school currently utilizing, or thinking about implementing, a similar tool? Let us know in the comments section.
Publication Date: 10/30/2014