Calif. Community Colleges Unveil a Tool Showing Earning Power of Graduates

California’s community-college system has unveiled an online salary-comparison tool that details how much money students earned before and after completing a certificate or an associate degree at a college in the 112-campus system.

The Web site, called Salary Surfer, shows median annual incomes two years before, two years after, and five years after students completed a program—a trove of data that could persuade more students to enroll, help them decide which programs to enter, and provide college leaders with ammunition to use in arguing against deeper state budget cuts. The system is the nation’s largest college system and has endured cuts of $1.5-billion in state support over the last five years.

Salary Surfer’s data show that, five years after finishing their programs, nearly 45 percent of students who completed an associate degree earned more than $54,000, the median income for a California resident with a bachelor’s degree.

“This is a factual base for the story we’ve been telling in higher education for a number of years,” Brice W. Harris, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, said in a conference call with reporters. “We think we can look policy makers in the eye and say that we’ve been telling you that return on investment is good, and here it is.”

The Web site shows salary information for students in 179 of the system’s degree and certificate programs that are most widely enrolled in, a range of fields as varied as applied photography and health-information coding. The data cover about half of the system’s graduates and do not include students who took jobs with the federal government, who are self-employed or working out of state, or who transferred to a four-year college. <Read more.>

Via Cory Weinberg, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.