The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a report calling for states to make publicly available information that could help students make informed decisions about college majors and careers.
(Image: iStock/Steve Debenport)
Having ready access to this data could significantly help all students, but especially African Americans who not only tend to cluster in majors that lead to lower paying jobs but also take on more debt than students of other races.
It would also better support employers and policy decisions.
Set the Data Free
I spoke with Tanya Garcia, associate director of Postsecondary Policy Research and associate research professor at the Georgetown Center and a co-author of the report, Career Pathways: Five Ways to Connect College and Careers.
“The point we’re trying to make is that most of the integrated workforce and postsecondary data is trapped at different levels, at the institutional or state level. A lot of it makes its way into a report for a targeted audience, but aside from that it doesn’t see the light of day,” Garcia told me.
“We’re calling for much more transparency of that data.”
Garcia emphasizes that it’s the integrated workforce and postsecondary data that students, their families, and employers need. “Many states make one or the other available, but not both.”
A website with a robust, easily navigable search engine could work as a tool to make the information publicly available, Garcia says.
“Students should be able to access information to know how much they can expect to earn depending on their major, along with what financial aid is available to them,” Garcia says. “That way they can choose a major fully knowing how much debt they can take on based on how much they will earn.”
Some States Are Moving in the Right Direction
Isn’t that information already available at sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Dept. of Labor’s O*Net Online?
Although those sites are useful, Garcia says they don’t go far enough.
“The BLS and DOL survey data are an excellent resource based on national household and employer samples. They are a good source of data about general labor market demand. However, states must connect administrative workforce and education data to reach the level of insights we highlight in the report. Survey data and the O*NET data is aggregated, while administrative data is at the individual level,” Garcia told me in an e-mail.
“Integrated data is what students and educators need to assess the economic value of their postsecondary programs.”
The report says that some states have begun to provide this information in the following five areas:
- Education projections, business expansion, and workforce quality
- Program alignment with labor market demand
- Curriculum alignment with workforce requirements
- Counseling and career pathways
- Job placement and skills gap analysis
Garcia described the Virginia Education Wizard tool, one of the tools highlighted in the report.
“It includes three assessments, takes into account what you like doing, and connects you to the colleges that offer those programs of study. It also describes the financial aid available to you, and then directs you to careers you might select after earning your credentials.”
Garcia says that high school students contemplating life after graduation and adults seeking to go to college for the first time will benefit the most from having access to this data.
“All jobs by 2025 will require a postsecondary credential, so now it’s more important than ever to demystify what careers you can go into if you study X major, and how to finance your education without wasting precious federal and state dollars to get to where you really want to be.”
To read the full report, go here.