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Colleges Increasingly Required to Release Salary Data



By Catherine Groux
Posted January 21, 2013 01:00 PM

More states are giving students access to salary data.
More states are giving students access to salary data.

When students decide to go back to school to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree, one of their biggest goals is probably to increase their salaries. These individuals want to know which colleges, degrees and majors will bring them the biggest paychecks after graduation, and increasingly, states are willing to provide them with this data.

States Demand Salary Statistics

This fall, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia joined Florida and Washington in creating databases of the average salary students receive when graduating from certain schools, degree programs and majors, The Hechinger Report states. Currently, Colorado, Nevada and Texas are in the process of producing similar databases.

The data found on these websites can indeed be valuable for students, as graduates of certain schools and degree programs can make drastically different wages than graduates of others. For example, in Virginia, students who earn bachelor's degrees in nursing tend to make more than twice as much as those who receive liberal arts degrees. In Tennessee, graduates of the University of Memphis tend to earn 13% more than graduates of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, according to The Hechinger Report.

Al Lee, PayScale's director of quantitative analysis, told The New York Times that students often want to see this type of salary data to ensure their education is going to be a solid investment of their time and money.

"You're thinking of buying a college," Lee said. "If that's all you buy - an undergraduate degree - without having to spend more money and time and effort to get another degree, you want to know what the return on that investment is."

A National Movement

While individual states are doing their part to help students make the best possible academic choices, this could soon become a national movement. Currently, there is a bill in Congress, known as the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, that would require all schools to disclose the average salaries of its graduates.

The bill was introduced by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden in February 2012 as a way for students to protect themselves against the rising costs of higher education. As college becomes more expensive for students and their families, Wyden said people deserve to know what they can expect as a return on their investment.

"The data exists," Wyden said in a statement. "This bill simply creates an efficient way to compile it and offers it to every prospective student so they can make the best decisions about their education, while protecting student privacy. Moreover, it brings greater transparency and ensures that students, families, policymakers and taxpayers receive the return on investment they deserve from the dollars spent on higher education."

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