Thursday, January 30, 2014

does money matter? (student edition)

So yesterday I posted an article suggesting that simply paying teachers more might improve schools and student performance.  Today I'd like to talk about student earnings, post graduation.

A new website,, looks at the salaries of recent grads with various degrees at colleges and universities in Florida.  The idea is to help students think about the job market and how their choice of major might impact their future.  The site is a little confusing, but I suggest you click the explore data tab at the top of the home page.

An article in the Orlando Sentinel last weekend suggested some additional impacts to knowing this data.  For example, "Earlier this month, the Board of Governors of Florida's university system said it will start considering the wages of bachelor's degree holders when it decides which schools get performance funding." and "President Barack Obama has directed the U.S. Department of Education to develop a system of rating colleges based on factors such as graduates' earnings and their loan-default rates." You can read the full text of the article here

There's a lot for students to think about in this data.  Pragmatically, if you are a student or the parent of a student today, would knowing the average salaries for graduates of various schools and degrees help you choose a college or a major? 

I'd also like to consider the cultural impact of this data on traditionally low-paying careers and majors.  Will sculptors switch to engineering, just for the money?  Will writers abandon their novels for a degree in computer programming?  What impact will this have on the arts, on literature, on all the non STEM fields?  These are important questions, not just for individuals, but for our society as a whole. 

Photo credit


  1. I think a student should view their choice of major through many lenses. I sorta think there is a triangle of school, major, and loans. If my daughter wants to major in visual arts, I would support her fully, but I would counsel her to make her college choice based on where her LIKELY income would be sufficient to cover her loans. I feel like that's an appropriate degree of pragmatism.

  2. I agree! I think students can likely get a good education at whatever college they choose. They might like the environment better in one place or another, but the education is available if they take advantage of what the school offers. Combine this with the long term consequences of massive student loans, and pragmatic students absolutely must weigh their long-term prospects. College and major selection is a daunting process, one my own son is embarking on now.