Wage Data Could Help Students Make More Informed Higher Education Decisions
Students have another tool to use when planning for higher
education: wage data. Two new state-level reports from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) show that some students in Tennessee and Virginia who earn associate’s
degrees out-earn those with bachelor’s degrees in certain fields – information
that could help prospective students choose an institution, field of
study, and how much to pay or borrow for a higher education degree.
Wage data like that included in the AIR study
can provide a “more holistic view of financial aid” because it shows students
an objective result of their education efforts, said Nicole Farmer Hurd, founder and executive director of the Nation College Advising Corps. And the sooner such
information is present to students, the better. “You can’t do it soon enough," Hurd said, adding that there are strategic milestones where data on earnings “makes
all the difference” to students’ decision-making.
The report for Tennessee found that for all nine of the state’s four-year public campuses, the average wage for graduates with a bachelor’s degree is $37,567. For graduates of the 13 community colleges, the average wage is $38,948, more than $1,300 higher than graduates at four-year institutions. There is a wide range between the highest and lowest incomes of those earning bachelors, associates and certificates.
study shows that among the most popular bachelor degree programs, the
average first-year wages for those who worked in the state was $36,067.
Registered nursing generated the highest average wages at $48,959. The next six
highest paying programs were all business degrees: finance majors averaged
$42,131; accounting, $42,110; and business administration, $38,578. In
comparison, political science graduates earned $31,184; history majors,
$30,230; and English majors were paid $29,222 on average.
“This vital consumer information brings a new dimension to
the process of deciding where to go to college, what major to pursue, and what
is a realistic debt to incur in order to earn a degree,” said Mark Schneider, a
vice president at AIR and president of College Measures.
The first-year wage data-set is a way to inform students of
implications of their education decisions and can be used to avoid poor debt
choices, Schneider said, adding that the new data should be used to make
informed decisions and not as a deterrent for pursuing higher education.
However, measuring average wage data is only one piece of the puzzle. For example, the data do not indicate subjective factors
such as a student’s happiness in or passion for a particular field, Schneider
said. The data are also very young and constitute the “first step in a long voyage”
needed to examine wage disparities, he said, adding that a bigger picture of
the issue will require data from the next five to 10 years.
Comments Disclaimer: NASFAA welcomes and encourages readers to comment and engage in respectful conversation about the content posted here. We value thoughtful, polite, and concise comments that reflect a variety of views. Comments are not moderated by NASFAA but are reviewed periodically by staff. Users should not expect real-time responses from NASFAA. To learn more, please view NASFAA’s complete Comments Policy.