A new Dallas College tool aims to get dropouts back into school by showing the value of a degree.
The pandemic continues to take a toll on higher education as colleges and universities struggle to return to enrollment numbers.
As a result, the number of undergraduate students today is 9.4% (or nearly 1.4 million students) lower than before the pandemic, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
The new tool gives prospective students an idea of future earnings with a particular degree or certificate and measures the cost of the investment in time and money they would spend in college.
“When students know why they’re making the sacrifices to go back to school and know why they’re working so hard … then they’re more likely to persist and eventually graduate,” said David Mahan, Dallas College Research Institute. Executive Director
The dashboard includes graduate earnings data from more than 3,500 institutions of higher education across the country, including two- and four-year colleges and universities.
The tool allows users to compare universities and provide rankings.
Students can explore different scenarios and see how their earnings can change depending on what school, at what age they start, and what career they pursue.
The tool’s first findings show that college goers — four-year or two-year institutions — earn hundreds of thousands of dollars more on average over 40 years than those with only a high school degree, according to a news release from Dallas College. .
The tool pulls numbers from publicly available data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Census. Federal earnings data are based on those who received financial aid in college who later reported their earnings to the Internal Revenue Service after graduation.
Allowing people to dive into data in a digestible way empowers them to make better decisions, said Emily Sharma, a technical writer at the Research Institute.
“We’re not just about turning things around in marketing,” he said. “There’s real data to back up why Dallas College is worth it or why the college in general is worth it.”
Other entities have similar or related instruments. The Colorado Community College System, for example, has an interactive tool that aims to help prospective students find a program’s return on investment by calculating the profit minus the cost of the program.
The Equal Opportunity Research Foundation, a non-profit think tank dedicated to expanding economic opportunity, and Georgetown University have several reports that look at the return on investment and the most profitable degrees.
Dan Hooper, who founded the nonprofit ScholarShot, which works with at-risk students, said he doesn’t know how well high school students will take to such tools, saying it’s essential to get more people into college to increase their chances of improving their financial situation. .
“It opens doors. It opens up opportunities,” Hooper said.
Because younger Texans don’t think long term, Hooper suggested those tools also show the average hourly wages of a high school graduate versus someone with a trade certificate or bachelor’s degree.
“When we show high school students the benefit of getting something at a community college, we show them in terms of a dollar an hour increase and the kids get that,” he said.
Even those using such tools should be aware of the limitations, says Austin Slaughter, technical research fellow at MDRC, a social policy research organization. Data can be imperfect and sparse, so caution should be taken before taking any information at face value, Slaughter said.
Users should not expect the same exact results shown on the tool as past students, he said.
Much of the federal earnings data on the dashboard was collected before the pandemic, and labor and economic conditions generally change over time.
Therefore, although “university is, on average, a good bet, it will not work for everyone”, he stated.
The DMN Education Lab provides in-depth coverage and conversation on pressing education issues critical to the future of North Texas.
The DMN Education Lab is a community-funded journalism initiative by The Beck Group, Bobby and Lottye Lyle, Texas Communities Foundation, The Dallas Foundation, Dallas Regional Chamber, Deedie Rose, Garrett and Cecilia Boone, The Meadows Foundation, The Beck Group has support Murrell Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network, Southern Methodist University, Sydney Smith Hicks, Todd A. Williams Family Foundation and The University of Texas at Dallas. The Dallas Morning News maintains full editorial control of the Education Lab’s journalism.