by Troy Miller, Senior Researcher & Policy Analyst
Thanks to a law passed in 2012, and a collaborative effort between several state agencies and the research group College Measures, a wealth of new data on the employment and earnings outcomes for graduates of Florida public postsecondary programs is now available.
In total, graduate outcomes from nearly 100 public colleges, universities and district technical centers are detailed by program and degree levels as part of the “Economic Security Report” project, which has taken over a year to develop. The results, detailed in a new website beyondeducation.org, a searchable database and report written by College Measures titled, “Higher Education Pays: Measuring the Economic Security of Florida’s Postsecondary Graduates,” allow users to view earnings and continuing education data by program, degree level and institution in their first year of college as well as five years after graduating.
Among the data outlined in the report and database are median earnings, percentage of graduates finding full-time employment, percentage of graduates continuing their education, percentage of graduates receiving public assistance and average student loan debt. Some of this information has been located in different places in other formats, but the new database is created in the same user-friendly format to which users of College Measures have come accustomed.
Using the new database is simple — find education and economic outcomes for Florida graduates by picking an institution or selecting an academic program
The results reveal outcome data for conventional postsecondary credentials like associate’s, bachelor’s and graduate degrees and for lesser-known credentials such as postsecondary vocational and technical certificates. The report reflects trends that have garnered increasing public attention thanks to previous work by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, PayScale.com and College Measures, such as the median income a graduate may earn based on level of postsecondary education attained and field of study. For example, among the ten most popular fields of study of 4-year programs offered by State University System institutions, the median first-year earnings of graduates varied from a low of $27,068 (psychology) to a high of $52,349 (nursing/registered nurse).
Starting next academic year, the report’s information will be widely distributed to middle and high school students as well as those attending public postsecondary institutions. The months between now and then gives those interested in using the data time to familiarize themselves with the report and database, learn more about what these outcomes mean for students and the limitations of the data. For example, the reported wage data for graduates of different postsecondary institutions can range from around 30% to 90%, because graduates who leave the state are not captured by the state’s wage matching methodology. And some institutions, like New College of Florida, didn’t have any graduate outcome data to report because they haven’t been a part of the State University System long enough. The report also doesn’t include the average entry wages of high school completers, a figure that’s important for users interested in knowing which educational options might be best suited for them.
Above are the average education and economic outcomes for graduates with a degree in political science by level and institution after one year (click to enlarge)
Where does this resource fit among the group of other “consumer-inspired” higher ed search tools (like the College Scorecard, College Reality Check and Smart College Choices) that have been introduced in recent years? What does the data tell us about the overall affordability, value and quality of different postsecondary credentials in Florida? Where do important factors like access and completion rates fit in? How have other states like Texas, Colorado, Virginia and Tennessee used similar information to their students’ benefit? The contents of the report and database will go far in adding depth to our state’s conversation on the value of postsecondary education and increase our understanding of all the educational and career pathways that exist for students. Because of the implications that exist for parents, students, taxpayers, legislators and postsecondary institutions, the education and workforce data included will hopefully be just the beginning to a much longer dialogue regarding the full range of benefits postsecondary education provides students as well as the ways we can help connect students to them.