The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

February 16, 2013

Our View: Higher ed info is already available

As students and graduates grow more frustrated with high tuition, student loan debt and job scarcity, some U.S. legislators think the answer is — more bureaucracy.

Sensing a way to please irate citizens, Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have drafted legislation requiring states to make more accessible the average salaries of colleges’ graduates. The theory is prospective students can compare salaries by college and major to help determine the best bang for the buck.

Proof that this may have some bipartisan steam, Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., and House majority leader, is supporting similar legislation in the House.

While details are still unclear, the intent is for the U.S. Department of Education to be the aggregator of data from all 50 states, relying on the states themselves to ferret out wage data from those who employed graduates of colleges.

The Wall Street Journal gives the example of a private college graduate who hoped his political-science degree would get him a government job. But it didn’t, as most of the job losses in past years have come from the public sector. So he is now saddled with $100,000 in student loans and is considering joining the National Guard.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said this is a priority for President Obama, pointing out that a year ago, the administration began crafting a “College Scorecard” that would add salary information for graduates and average debt load to the existing data on costs, graduation rates and loan repayment rates. However, the department is reluctant to share how it was going to do this.

As pointed out by the Journal, state data have shortcomings. Pay for the same job varies widely by location, nor does the data include self-employed graduates or those who work for the U.S. government.

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