The Corner


Would This Degree from That College Be Apt to Pay Off?

It wasn’t so long ago that apologists for the higher ed industry were telling people that it didn’t much matter how big the debt load was for their degrees because just having a degree was worth it. You still come across cheerleaders who claim that a college degree is worth an additional million dollars over the student’s working career.

That sort of hucksterism is fading fast, however. We frequently hear about students who have their bachelor’s degree or even a more advanced degree and are scraping by delivering pizza or serving coffee. And now, in one of those rare cases of doing something useful, the Department of Education makes it possible to students to compare average earnings and average debt by degrees and institutions. In today’s Martin Center article, Preston Cooper looks at the Department’s new and improved College Scorecard.

He writes, “Last Wednesday, the Department unveiled a new edition of the Scorecard which allows prospective students to view these outcomes data by both institution and program. The updated Scorecard publishes a dashboard geared toward prospective students, as well as comprehensive files to help researchers and journalists analyze the data en masse. The data includes median student debt and median earnings after graduation for some 41,000 programs.”

Now there’s much less guesswork when it comes to deciding if a degree or graduate program is worth it. Cooper suggests that colleges and universities will probably cut out degrees and programs that appear to be tickets to an extended stay in Mom and Dad’s basement. I’d surmise that schools will dump their politicized Grievance Studies programs and keep engineering.

Cooper concludes, “Transparency is a powerful tool to discipline the higher education marketplace and improve outcomes for students and taxpayers, so it’s heartening to see the Department deploy it. Let’s hope various stakeholders — students, institutions, journalists, and policymakers — will take advantage of this new information.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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