University of Texas Offers Tool to Forecast Graduate Earnings, Loan Debt

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The University of Texas (UT) System partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau in a first-of-its-kind collaboration to create a data tool that provides a window into future earnings for college graduates through the early years of their careers as well as the loan debt they may incur.

They unveiled the tool, officially named Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes, on Tuesday over the UT System’s online and free seekUT app. This comes at a time when the cost of a college education continues to escalate and runaway student loan debt tops $1.4 trillion. Some question the value of higher education. However, this compelling app shines a unique light on the return on one’s investment that a four-year or more degree may bring once a college graduate hits the workforce.

SeekUT allows students to compare undergraduate majors, peruse graduate and professional programs offered at any of the UT System’s 14 institutions, and see how all this education translates into profitable careers. It even displays what they might earn in increments of one, five, and 10 years after graduation regardless of whether they live and work in Texas or in other U.S. states.

For example, a UT-Austin graduate with a degree in history earned a median $38,609 during the first year in the workplace based on national salaries. That midpoint wage rose to $50,856 at the five year mark, and $65,753 in year 10. The median loan debt for this degree was $25,642.

The data also gave a glimpse into what a student’s future salaries look like at the 25th and 75th percentile of wage earners. Ten years later, this graduate, in the 75th percentile, may command $106,935.

The median salary for a computer and information sciences graduate from UT-Dallas is $64,919 in year one, $79,338 in year two, and $91,900 by year 10. A student may owe $13,679 in loans. In year 10, a graduate in the 75th percentile may garner up to $128,606.

A UT-Austin graduate with a degree in petroleum engineering could earn $119,936 in year one, $182,940 in five years, and reach a median salary of $319,269 at 10 years on the job. This student will owe $25,936 in loans.

According to the UT System, the percentage of students receiving financial aid ranges from 32 to 62 percent across all of their campuses. Generally, they benchmark 92 percent of four year graduates pay less than 10 percent of their salaries on student loans one year after graduation. Five years after graduation, this increases to 99 percent

“The national data gives students and families a more accurate expectation of the return on investment in a UT degree while at the same time providing a comprehensive picture of post-collegiate outcomes for employment earnings and industry,” stated Vice Chancellor for the UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives Stephanie Huie in a press release. “Until now, this sort of information was unavailable by program and at a national level.”

This is because the Higher Education Act Reauthorization in 2008 banned the government from collecting and reporting student data over of privacy concerns.

“Ever since a student unit record ban was implemented as part of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization in 2008, a growing number of colleges and universities have been grappling with insufficient data to demonstrate the success of graduates,” said Huie. “The UT System and the U.S. Census Bureau have found an innovative way to deliver this valuable information while keeping the individual information of students strictly confidential.”

The project partners worked around the prohibitions by leaching out all individual or identifiable student data when they aggregated information about earnings by campus and by major for UT System undergraduates, graduates, and professional students, as well as when factoring in student debt. The UT System spent no money on the data compilation or the tools development, according to the Houston Chronicle.

In 2016, the UT System announced a 10-year partnership with the Census Bureau as part of an effort to present a more comprehensive snapshot of degree attainment and its impact on the labor market. System officials say the collaboration lays the groundwork for other higher education institutions and agencies to form similar partnerships that measure earnings and employment outcomes of their graduates.

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