Empowering College Students with Better Consumer Data

There is a big move afoot in Congress to make salary information of college graduates more readily available to the public. The idea is to give students a realistic idea of how much they can expect to earn when they apply to a school that will cost them $100,000 or up in tuition and fees. “This begins to introduce some market forces into the academic arena that have not been there,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, told the Wall Street Journal.

The idea enjoys bipartisan support. Increasing transparency is a priority of the Obama administration, and House Whip Eric Cantor, R-7th, says he intends to introduce a similar bill in the House. Now, here’s what’s really amazing: Virginia is the first state in the nation to make this data available. We’re ahead of everyone else!

Now that I’ve given our dear Old Dominion a pat on the back for being leader of the pack, let me introduce a word of caution. The WSJ issues some  caveats : “The state data have shortcomings. Paychecks for the same job can vary widely by location. Salary data don’t reflect self-employed graduates or those who work for the U.S. government or move to another state.

It’s useful to know that you have a good shot at making more money if you graduate from George Mason University than any other public university in the state. But that information, by itself, is only of limited utility. If most GMU graduates stay in the Northern Virginia area, they might be making more… but their cost of living might be a whole lot higher. Also, graduates of the most recruited academic programs — take Virginia Tech’s engineering school, for instance — typically take jobs outside the state. If many of Tech’s best-compensated grads aren’t counted because they end up outside Virginia, the average earnings figure would be artificially depressed.

Despite the limitations, publishing the data takes us in the right direction. It makes college students better consumers of educational services and it puts college and university administrations on notice that people aren’t going to accept business as usual very much longer.

– JAB

5 Responses to Empowering College Students with Better Consumer Data

  1. I totally support the concept but I wonder how they get the actual data.

    this is one of those things that sounds very appealing until you start thinking about how they get the data …. does govt bureaucracy come to mind?

    bean counting for the masses… eh?

  2. The ACT Test people define their College Preparation test as:

    “The ACT Test is a curriculum- and standards-based educational and career planning tool that assesses students’ academic readiness for college. The ACT Test is the capstone of our College and Career Readiness System. The test uses the same score scale as ACT Explore and ACT Plan, making the system an effective tool to monitor academic progress and student growth.

    The ACT Test people go on to say that ACT tests each student to:
    1/ measure standard written English and rhetorical skills.
    2/ measure mathematical skills students had typically acquired in course taken up to the beginning of grade 12.
    3/ measure reading comprehension.
    4/ measure interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving skills required in the natural sciences.
    5/ measures writing skills emphasized in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses.

    Likely, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of these tests are given annually. Colleges and universities depend heavily on each student’s test results when deciding whether to accept or reject that student’s application.
    Often institutions trumpet the test scores of its entering freshman class as proof of that institution’s quality.

    So why do our Colleges and Universities refuse to test or publish annual year end test results of each class within their enrolled student body?

    Why do they refuse to publish the collective scores of each graduating class?

    After all, would not these results prove the worth of the education they afforded their students, thus justifying the sky rocketing tuition costs?

    I’ve read many explanations. None make sense. Unless, perhaps, the seller (institution) is afraid of the facts. What the buyer (student) will learn about the product (education) he or she has spent years and a fortune to acquire.

    Why would the government not demand the same for every government student with government grant, or insured student loan? Why not? Consumer safety is rampant in our society. Except for the most important product of all: the eduction of our of citizens. What are we afraid of?

  3. Why? well for the same reason that Medical Providers don’t publish their prices and performance!

    and this is sort of an interesting conundrum…because govt is blame no matter what they do.

    govt gets blamed for it’s rules and regs…. and then govt gets blame for not “forcing” the colleges to “do” something to “help”.

    Of course govt also gets blamed for rules and regs on the health care industry and then blamed again for not forcing insurance companies to sell across state lines and not forcing medical providers to post their prices…

    In a TRUE “small govt” world both the colleges and the heath care industry would totally thumb their noses at consumers, right?

    there would be no nutrition labels… no warnings on drugs… no posting of the annual interest rate on credit cards, no requirement that real tuna be in cans labelled as tuna… no recalls of food and autos… etc…

    boy have we gotten spoiled… and yet we STILL blame govt…

    what a bunch of brats we are…..

    • Once I was hiking in Arizona. It was very hot. I didn’t have any water and it made me miserable. Another time I fell out of my boat in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. I was surrounded by water. It was cold and made me miserable.

      Water, like government, is a matter of degree. Too little and you die. Too much and you die.

      • Excellent comment.

        Here’s only one iteration of the problem. Too much government spending too much money making sure nobody gets inconvenienced, their feelings hurt, or treated any differently from anyone else, soon suffers or enjoys (depending on one’s perspective) ever increasing numbers of citizens who are unable to care for themselves, and ever more politicians working hard to spend other people’s money to disable every more otherwise able bodied citizens.

        It’s a story old as the bible.

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