AIR hosted a discussion on why states and higher education institutions should make data on colleges more available to better serve students. AIR Vice President Mark Schneider, along with five guests, participated in “Deciding on a College, a Major, and a Debt Load,” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on November 28. The panel came out of a series of reports co-authored by Schneider that present the first-year income of college grads by major and school. The reports were published by College Measures, a joint venture of AIR and Matrix Knowledge Group that provides higher education data to students, parents, and policymakers. Analyses of data from Arkansas, Tennessee, and Virginia are available and can be found at College Measures.
Schneider explained that first-year earnings of graduates from two-year institutions are about $1,000 higher in Tennessee and $2,500 higher in Virginia than first-year earnings of graduates from four-year institutions in those respective states. Additionally, he highlighted the disparities among those holding bachelor’s degrees, including the finding that the highest-earning graduates in Virginia make about $69,000 on average and graduated from University of Richmond’s information sciences or human resources programs. Meanwhile, graduates from 16 programs across Virginia, most of which are liberal arts programs, earned on average less than $24,000.
Jeff Selingo, editor at large for the Chronicle of Higher Education served as a moderator. Panelists, in addition to Schneider, were:
- Jamie P. Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation, the largest private foundation committed solely to enrolling and graduating students from college.
- Nicole Farmer Hurd, founder and executive director of the National College Advising Corps, a consortium of colleges and universities that hire recent graduates to serve as college advisers to high school students.
- Richard G. Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the state's coordinating agency for higher education.
- Robert Templin, president of Northern Virginia Community College, one of the nation's largest community colleges.
Following Schneider’s presentation, panelists commented on using college data to benefit students. Nicole Hurd noted that making data accessible for enrolling students is important, but that students and their families would benefit from seeing higher education data earlier in the process, since preparing students to successfully navigate through college and careers begins much earlier than high school. Robert Templin also shared some of the successes and challenges of Northern Virginia’s Community College, noting that it’s important to use higher education data to understand where graduates are finding jobs (e.g., within the community or outside of it) in order to determine how best to allocate resources to community colleges. Schneider responded by saying that community colleges are unique in terms of building links between higher education institutions and regional community business and industry, and they are currently working with Tennessee to integrate labor demand data with wage data to determine the probability of obtaining a job in that region.