For some, the combination of student debt and the post-grad blues is a crushing weight – one that comes swiftly, and without warning. But now, for prospective Texas college students, a forecast of post-grad life is a click away.
The Seek UT online database allows students to see snapshots of student incomes and college loan debt after receiving a bachelor’s degree. The data shows first and fifth-year median incomes, as well as the average student loan debt and average number of hours across each major offered in UT System schools.
The online tool is designed to help families find the right fit as they send students off to college, but will also look inward to provide a cross-section of higher education data, says Stephanie Bond Huie, the vice chancellor of the Office of Strategic Initiatives for the University of Texas System.
“We’re providing information on what the workforce will look like when you graduate in particular occupations…what the demand will be in certain regions of the state and across the state,” Bond Huie says.
The tool looks to provide a roadmap for students, matching them up with the right major and the right university by examining 68,000 student records from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, as well as employment data from the Texas Workforce Commission from 2007 to 2011. But, it’s that fifth year that makes the difference in the forecast, says Bond Huie.
“Showing the fifth year salary along the student debt really gives the student a feel for what they’re getting ready to undertake -- the value of that education. By the fifth year, in almost every case, that fifth year salary is almost double what the initial student debt was,” she says. “And in the first year, the first year salary always exceeds the student debt. So it really gives the value of the investment that you’re about to undertake.”
The process hasn’t been an easy undertaking – getting records from multiple in-state agencies proved logistically difficult, but provides a more honest picture of employment and debt. One of the main hurdles going forward, Bond Huie says, is transferring that data out of state, sharing data to make a more comprehensive roadmap for students across the country. Today, Bond Huie has been pitching the program to a national audience – officials from the House Education Workforce Committee, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Department of Education and even the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Within the next few years, Seek UT looks to continue the one-of-a-kind program and will add more data for graduate students, Pell grant recipients and veterans, with the goal of sharing data across state lines.
“This is something that I haven’t seen anyone do comprehensively at all,” she says. “Particularly in the long term look at the wages, the workforce demand and the student loan debt.”