US releases data on salaries and debt levels by college major

The statistics show income – or lack thereof – based on specific degree programmes, and some results may be surprising.

United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos greets Isabela cruz at Tampa Bay Technical High School in Tampa
US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, left, has pledged to give prospective university students more information to make better choices for the future [Carlos Barria/Reuters]

The United States Department of Education has released information for the first time that allows students to compare earnings and debt averages from specific college programmes, rather than at each university as a whole.

The department’s updated College Scorecard website was launched on Wednesday to help students evaluate their education choices.

The site lets students search individual majors at a school to see how much graduates typically earned and owed a year after graduation.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says it provides “real information students need to make informed, personalized decisions about their education”.

“The best way to attack the ever-rising cost of college is to drive real transparency,” she said in a statement.

The administration of former US President Barack Obama published similar data from for-profit colleges and pledged to cut funding to ineffective programmes.

DeVos sidelined that approach, and she has promised instead to give students information from all types of schools so they can make decisions for themselves.

Business majors from Bismarck State College earn a median of $100,500 one year after graduating – a sum that exceeds the figures for some private colleges with much more prestigious reputations.

In many cases, hard science majors earn better incomes than social science majors, and the data overall provides a comprehensive look into the financial health of college graduates.

The Education Department worked with technology companies, including Google parent Alphabet, to make the information more accessible to prospective students and their families.

The data also looked into graduate programmes, revealing that graduates of medical and dental schools have some of the highest debt-to-income ratios.

But the information does not include income figures for beyond the first year out of school. So, many more subsequent annual figures are needed to paint the full picture of which degrees are most worthwhile.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies