In November, the Department of Education released post graduate earnings and debt data broken down by college program — which will have a revolutionary impact on higher education. Students (and policymakers) can now get accurate information about how much recent graduates earned by college and degree (e.g., a Bachelor’s in Physics from Ohio State University).
While the data isn’t perfect (it only includes students who received federal financial aid and so far only lists earnings one year after graduation), the data is complete enough to generate two tsunamis that will hit higher education in rapid succession.
One tsunami is enhanced accountability for the hundreds of billions of dollars federal, state, and local governments provide to colleges each year — funds that have historically flowed regardless of graduates’ labor market outcomes. To date, the only effort to hold colleges accountable for these outcomes was launched by the Obama administration. Under its Gainful Employment regulations, vocational programs that pushed students into too much debt relative to income would no longer be eligible for federal financial aid.