PROVO, Utah – The college data firm Optimal has come out with a new list that ranks schools based on the average salary of alumni. It allows students to compare schools by how much graduates from each major earn on average compared to the same programs at other schools.
The company said providing that data can better equip students to choose where they should attend and what to study, which has become increasingly important with student debt rising and a lack of well-paying jobs.
“Now, more than ever before, students are concerned with being able to support themselves, and are in need of the data that illustrates how much they can make in their chosen field after graduation,” a press release announcing the new rankings said. “Think of [the data] as a predictor of earning potential and [return on investment] for one of the most crucial investments a student will ever make.”
According to the rankings, Utah Valley University is the top school in the state, with a salary score of 67.4. Stevens-Henager College, a private school in Ogden, ranked last with a score of 17.85.
While no Utah schools broke the top 50 overall, several individual degree programs rank among the highest in the country. UVU’s aviation bachelor’s and business associate’s degrees ranked fourth and seventh in the country, respectively. Brigham Young University came in second nationwide in liberal arts and marketing degrees and third in graphic design.
Jeff Strohl, director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said he’s supportive of efforts to give students a better idea of what they can make after graduating. He said while people with a college degree on average tend to do much better than those with only a high school education or less, it’s become increasingly important which degree they get as outcomes can vary widely.
Data like Salary Score can help people make more informed decisions, but he said in reality students don’t tend to use the information as designed.
““There are 750,000 combinations of institution, program and degree level in the United States,” Strohl said. “Go try to figure out how to make a decision with that type of information. It’s like cereal at the grocery store, you’ve got what’s in front of you — what mom and dad do or something that you’ve dreamed to be. And then there’s all this other choice. After a certain point, there’s information overload.”
Strohl said to really make the data useful, it should also include things like average debt levels, the range of potential salary outcomes and the potential impacts of a recession on a field. But including all of that in a way that’s easy to digest is a tall order.