How Congress will try to measure the value of a college degree

One industry expert says 'it's going to happen'

A bipartisan effort to link employment data with students who took out federal loans will likely pass in Congress, Eric Schulzke reports for Deseret News.

The data needed to better examine the return on investment for specific colleges is out there, but not yet legally accessible, researchers say. Combining unemployment, Social Security employment, and college transcript data would give researchers a better idea of how various majors and degrees prepare students for the workforce, and would not violate privacy or require individual identifiers.

However, for the moment it remains impossible.

"When the Congress starts working again it's going to happen," says Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

Can you calculate a college's value? New rankings hope to do just that.

"Know before you go" legislation is sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), as well as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) who heads the Senate Education Committee.

Linking the data

A report released last month by the Aspen Institute centered on how to best measure the labor market returns of a college education. It found states can collect student transcript information and wage data for about 67% of students who remain in the state they went to college in, but when they cross a border it becomes much more difficult to track. It also fails to account for military service members and the self-employed.

Survey: The five most employable majors

The link will aid policymakers in their funding decisions, says Josh Wyner, VP and executive director of the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program.

"By unpacking these data, colleges and universities can get a sense for where they are providing the greatest value to students and where they are not," he says.

While a recent study by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce and a separate set of rankings from the Brookings Institution each aimed to quantify the value of specific college educations, both ran into issues with data. Georgetown's report relied on U.S. Census data, which prevented it from looking at individual schools, while Brookings' rankings relied on data approximations (Schulzke, Deseret News, 5/13).

The takeaway: Congress is pushing efforts to expand access to student data in an effort to quantify individuals' return on investments in a college education.


  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague