Calculating the Net Worth of a College Degree

For 18-year-old consumers, financial decisions escalate exponentially. Tall latte or a grande splurge? Lucky Brand or True Religion? State U. or N.Y.U.? Statistics or psych or maybe social work?

It’s not hard for a student today, facing an average single-year college bill of $21,657, to unwittingly take on a life-altering amount of debt. Pick a college or field that doesn’t set you up for a job that’s lucrative enough to pay back loans and you could spend years just scraping by.

To help students make informed decisions about whether it’s worth paying a premium for a certain college or degree, advocates and entrepreneurs have created online tools to compare graduates’ income.

“In the last few years, there’s been a fairly strong push to have colleges report to students when they pick a major what the labor market performance has been,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “Do graduates get a job in their field, earn enough money to pay their loans?”

Most colleges don’t have the research staff, or desire, to chase down graduates and find out what they’re making. But states have been collecting income data for years, and some — Virginia, Maryland, Nevada and Florida — have passed laws requiring their education departments to compile and release it, or post it voluntarily. Other free sites help students calculate R.O.I., or return on investment: the cost of attending set against future earnings. <Read more.>

Via Samantha Stainburn, The New York Times.