Virginia tracks graduates’ earnings

Virginia has published a database showing recent graduates’ earnings by college attended, degree and major, reports the Washington Post.

“Students and their families should have this information at their fingertips so they can make better-informed decisions about where to enroll, what to major in and how much debt they might comfortably take on relative to their likely earnings,” Mark Schneider, vice president of the nonprofit American Institutes for Research, told Congress last month.

Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada and Texas are working on providing similar data and Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have written a bipartisan bill, the “Student Right to Know Before You Go Act,”  which would encourage the trend, reports the Post.

Virginia’s site has limitations: It doesn’t include salary information for graduates who left the state or work in the military or federal government. It also doesn’t track four-year graduates who enrolled in graduate school rather than seeking a job. It may understate the long-term value of a bachelor’s degree.

In the first few years after college, vocational training pays off, according to 2009-10 data. The wages by degree levels chart shows higher median earnings for short-term certificate holders ($30,548) than for graduates with certificates taking more than a year but less than two ($28,490). Graduates with an associate degree designed for transfer students averaged $27,693, while new graduates with an associate degree in an occupational or technical field — nursing is the most common — averaged $36,372.  Two-year occupational graduates earned more than four-year graduates  ($33,122).

According to the wages by program chart, a two-year graduate in auto mechanics averages $32,521, while a four-year graduate in communications/journalism averages $22,547.  A dental hygienist with an associate degree averages $ 52,246, more than a hygienist with a bachelor’s degree.

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