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Using data to connect degrees to dollars

By Sophie Quinton, Stateline.org
August 10th, 2016

Data systems that track early career wages are helping students visualize life after a diploma

data career

When Luke Greiner quizzes high school students about Minnesota’s labor market, there’s one question that always stumps them: What college major–and type of degree–leads to the highest salary two years after graduation?

“Students pick chemical engineering, anything with computers,” said Greiner, who works for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

The correct answer? A specialized plumbing and water supply program.

Many states, driven partly by people’s anxiety over whether a college degree is worth the cost, now track the early career wages of residents who went to college in the state.

Minnesota is one of the few states that goes beyond posting the data online and deploys staff like Greiner to share it with students, counselors, college administrators and industry groups.

Today more than half of states have matched higher education and employment information, according to the Workforce Data Quality Campaign at the nonprofit National Skills Coalition. Arkansas, Kentucky, Minnesota and Maine are among the states that legally require the publication of post-college employment and earnings data. The federal government released its College Scorecard, a consumer information website, in 2013.

(Next page: Outreach using data to link wages and college majors is becoming more common)


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