New Database Shows Virginia Students the Value of a College Degree

By Catherine Groux
Posted October 05, 2012 03:00 PM

A new database shows Virginia students their earnings potential after graduation.
A new database shows Virginia students their earnings potential after graduation.
Given the high cost of college, it is important for prospective students to consider how much they could earn after graduation when researching the value of earning a bachelor's degree. To make this process easier, Virginia recently launched an online database to reflect how much graduates of certain colleges and degree programs tend to earn after graduation, The Washington Post reports.

The plan to launch the database has been in the works for several years, and since then, a few other states - including Texas, Colorado and Tennessee - have considered creating similar websites.

"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 in August.

Having access to this type of data is important for college students, particularly when it comes to choosing the right degree program or major. Recently, various studies have proven that, while a bachelor's degree alone tends to be a valuable investment, students' salary potential heavily depends on their major. According to a 2011 report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, the difference in earnings potential between one major and another can be greater than 300%.

Given the importance of a student's major, almost one-third of parents are considering how much their children will make after graduation based on their major when analyzing the full cost of college, an August survey by Fidelity Investments ® shows. In fact, about 16% of adults said they were encouraging their children to switch majors so they would earn higher salaries after earning an associate's or bachelor's degree.

While Virginia's new database can be helpful in choosing a lucrative major, the State Council of Higher Education warned that the information it contains is not completely accurate, the Post reports. The database does not take into account the salaries from students who got jobs in other states or landed a military or federal government position. Additionally, it does not reflect the bachelor's degree holders who went to graduate school after graduation rather than searching for a job. 

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