Should low income diplomas be eliminated? Gillen’s data and more

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There are few advantages to aging, but one of them surrounds himself with former students whose accomplishments bring great pleasure. One of mine is Andrew Gillen, who graduated from university about 20 years ago, got a doctorate. at Florida State, worked for me for a time at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, and is now thriving as a researcher at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).

Like me, André love data, and when the U.S. Department of Education did a rare and useful thing by releasing student income data by school and major, I knew Andrew would be in statistical nirvana for years. The ratio of accumulated student debt to annual undergraduate earnings is an excellent measure of the financial burden of obtaining a college degree versus the benefits of doing so. While the “college for all” crowd tells us “it’s worth getting a degree,” this sweeping generalization doesn’t not apply to all individuals, schools or fields of study, as Andrew reminds us in the new TPPF studies. Looking at schools in Texas, he found dozens of programs with dangerously high debt-to-income ratios. And some schools fared better than others: Texas Southern University had five programs rated “excellent or good” by Gillen, but a surprising number of 15 programs rated “poor,” “poor,” or in four cases ” terrible ”. In contrast, at the Texas A&M main campus, 63 programs were rated “excellent,” but only one as poor. Should somebody (Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board?) Be quality control and shutting down the horrible programs?

Inspired by Andrew, I asked my intrepid student Braden Colegrove to analyze my mid-grade college (Ohio University) to observe changes in graduate earnings by major. The results were amazing. For example, the departments of history and economics are neighboring, literally a few tens of meters from each other. We share classrooms at Bentley Hall. Yet those who claimed to have a major in economics had median post-graduation earnings that were 57% higher than history majors who took many of the same general education courses at our College of Arts and Sciences. . Located just across the street is Copeland Hall, the headquarters of the accounting department. The median income of accountants was 143% !!! higher than for historians learning nearby. Civil engineers worked a few blocks on average, while the Department of Education tells us that Ohio University English students who study five minutes from my desk typically earned less per year ($ 22,329). after graduation some new full-time employees. Wal-Mart workers with a high school diploma.

Of course, that’s not the whole story, maybe not even half. First of all, there is more to life than money. Many of the English majors that I know lead fulfilling and joyful lives even without enormous material abundance. Second, incomes rise tremendously for most workers over the course of their careers, and the major in the history of low wages of 2021 could be a big cat plutocratic cadre 25 years later. Historians are generally good writers and thinkers, good qualities for seeking professional advancement.

Third, “median” incomes often mask large variations around this number, and exceptionally good individuals do well. One of my favorite students who graduated in 2021 is undoubtedly earning six-figure bonus income at JP Morgan Chase’s private bank in New York City, while another barely scores much less in an office role in a firm. of neighboring rural avocados. I love them both and I think both will be happy in life.

Finally, most humans find a partner (some more than one) with whom to live during their adulthood. What is relevant is not so much individual income as “household income”. The $ 25,000 English major could marry a $ 60,000 finance major which, in five years, will earn $ 150,000 a year. College is where many find love and ultimately marriage. University is about learning and earning money, but also about developing lifelong friendships, it’s also about love and sex.

Conclusion: The majors are as important, often more important, than the choice of the university. For most students, a good tip is to “Think about what you like and are good at, and explore different options early in your college career before choosing a major.” “


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