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Should Colleges Break Down How Much Money Students Make For Each Major?

The Boston Globe published some thoughts from a professor of political science at Fordham University:
A bipartisan group of senators, including Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, are backing a bill called the College Transparency Act. It would require public and private colleges around the country to report how many students enroll, transfer, drop out, and complete various programs. Then that information would be combined with inputs from other federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, so that the “labor market outcomes” of former students could be tracked.

In other words, the act would create a system that publicizes how much money students make, on average, after going through particular colleges, programs, and majors. According to Senator Whitehouse, “Choosing a college is a big decision, and yet too often families can’t get the information to make apples-to-apples comparisons of the costs and benefits of attending different schools.” The purpose of the College Transparency Act is to allow people to make these comparisons. Its other sponsors are Republicans Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Unfortunately, the College Transparency Act could reshape how students, families, policymakers, and the public view the purposes of higher education.

To be sure, privileged students will still be able to pursue their academic passions, but many students will be channeled into paths with a higher payoff upon graduation. Many students who might want to explore geography, philosophy, or the fine arts will be advised to stay away from such majors that do not appear lucrative… The system would publicize only some outputs of college — especially how much money students make — and not, for instance, surveys of graduates’ satisfaction. This would have the effect of nudging students and families into viewing college as being primarily about making money…

If students learn to read complex texts and write research papers, practice public speaking, find a mentor, and make friends, then they often do well after college regardless of major.

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