Get ready to dig into the most granular data we’ve ever had about what colleges graduates earn. Plus, we introduce you to our new intern.

What College Graduates Earn 

The news: The federal government released data this week that gives the most in-depth view we’ve ever had about what college graduates earn. Previously, we’ve only been able to see schoolwide numbers on how much debt graduates have and how much they’re earning. The new data — available on the College Scorecard — shows debt and first-year earnings by the specific program or graduate degree.

The easiest way to explore it right now is through a set of Wall Street Journal graphics (made in part by our former colleague Andrea Fuller).

What we learn: Lots of things we’d expect, of course. People graduating from super-selective places in high-demand fields make a lot more money even right after school (computer science grads from MIT earned $118,000 that first year). But also some things we may not have focused on, like how some professional degrees lead to good-paying jobs immediately and the same degree down the road doesn’t. (Georgetown University law grads average $105,000 right out of school; American University law graduates just half that, $55,300.)

The limitations: Take a look at the comments on that Wall Street Journal story and you’ll see tons of people complaining that it’s silly to talk about what people make in their first year out of college. Said one: “I’d be more interested in knowing earnings 10 or 20 years from college.” Wouldn’t we all?

The government plans to do just that, by adding one year at a time. So that commenter will have to wait until 2029 like the rest of us.

  • Also if you’re looking for numbers for a small program, you’re out of luck. Amherst College has data for just two programs (economics and political science). St. Mary’s College of Maryland shows data for eight majors.
  • Economics majors from both colleges had median debts around $20,000. In the first year, the St. Mary’s graduates earned $39,500 and the Amherst economics majors earned 75 percent more — $69,800. Cue the debates about whether the colleges had much of anything to do directly with those outcomes.

Expect lots more stories and papers to come as journalists and researchers dig into the new data — despite its shortcomings.

Legal Threats Over List of Projected College Closures

This week Edmit, a start-up college advising company, planned to release a list of private colleges it expects to run out of money and shut their doors.

Instead, after colleges threatened legal action, the publication was scuttled and the whole mess has led to debates about the most responsible way to tell the public about the precarious state of some colleges’ finances.

Inside Higher Ed had been working on a story about the data and analysis, which is what drove some colleges to threaten to sue. But when Edmit backed off on making the data public, Inside Higher Ed broke the story about what Edmit had planned and the pressure from colleges to halt its release.

Three quotes that sum things up:

  • “A timetable for their failure is simultaneously disruptive, discouraging, disappointing, and highly indefensible,” said Karen Gross, former president of now-closed Southern Vermont College. “Once you do that, it’s game over for these colleges.” (Boston Globe)
  • “This is a classic thing the higher-ed lobby does: The data aren’t perfect, so let’s not do anything,” said Amy Laitinen, director for higher education with the education-policy program at New America, a Washington think tank. “And then they lobby against the data being better.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
  • “At this point, there’s zero consumer protection like this. And I don’t think that’s the optimal amount,” said Doug Webber, an associate professor of economics at Temple University. “If a school goes under, it’s really bad for the students.” (Inside Higher Ed)

Meet Andrea, Our First Intern

Andrea Klick’s email landed in our inbox this fall. Her goal, she wrote, is to work for a nonprofit news organization. She wanted to intern in ours. (And still did even when we emphasized how it was more of a room in a co-working space than a full-fledged D.C. newsroom.)

We can’t wait to welcome Andrea, a sophomore at the University of Southern California, in January. Let her introduce herself:

School officials chuckled when they saw my scrawny hand pop up to ask the first question at the community meeting. I was 12 years old in a room of adults and determined to get to the bottom of the mold outbreak at my charter school.

They let me speak, probably expecting me to thank them for relocating our school to a children’s science museum. Instead, I pressed them on how many times the school had been tested for mold, how long the infestation had been growing, and if we could take any measures to prevent potential medical issues. As part of my job as sixth grade class historian, I wanted to attend the meeting to inform parents in my weekly newsletter.

Now, seven years later, I’m a student majoring in journalism and political science at the University of Southern California (where I’m also a news editor for the campus paper). Before that, I had spent my whole life in a small town in Pennsylvania.

I’ve seen firsthand the importance of local higher education reporting that holds institutions accountable and gauges the reactions of community members who are directly impacted. I also know that, as local newsrooms continue to face cuts, beats like higher education fall by the wayside.

I’m excited to be joining Sara and Scott in January to help build our network of reporters, plan new ways to engage audiences, and learn more about the evolving world of nonprofit news. In the meantime, I’ll be finishing up classes this semester and buying some gear to prepare for my first real winter since I moved to Los Angeles.


For Low-Income Students, the Suburbs Are No Sure Path to College

Low-income students are only half as likely to graduate from college as their more affluent peers even when they attended top suburban high schools, according to a Globe analysis of first-of-its-kind state education data. (Boston Globe)

There Are Two Rhodes Scholars Running For President. Only One Gets Mentioned.

U.S. media outlets mentioned that Pete Buttigieg was a Rhodes scholar 596 times in 2019, according to a HuffPost search. That compares with just 79 for Cory Booker. (HuffPost)

How Counselor Diversity Matters for Students of Color

New research quantifies just how much of a difference an individual high-school counselor can make — and it’s substantial, particularly for low-income students. (Chalkbeat)

Recommendation Corner

Here’s Andrea again, with some recommendations:

As my fall semester comes to a close and the stress of finals season mounts, I’ve been investing lots of time in feel good stories, shows, and movies.

Literally anything from The New York Times’ Modern Love series, including:

This Rivard Report piece on the origin story of The Texas Tribune. It’s not a classic feel-good story, but as someone looking to pursue a career in journalism who constantly hears about job cuts and low wages, reading about The Tribune’s success helped reignite my optimism.

Double Your Donation

Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed to our first fundraising campaign. Because of you, we’ve been able to offer Andrea an internship and add new content like our newest newsletter, latitude(s).

There’s still time to give to Open Campus and have your donation doubled, thanks to NewsMatch, a national campaign to drive donations to nonprofit newsrooms like ours.

And, if you set up a new recurring monthly donation to Open Campus today, NewsMatch will match a full year’s worth of gifts. (So make a monthly $10 gift and we’ll get an extra $120. That’s a tremendous return for both of us.)

Here’s that link again to give. Thank you for supporting our work.

Co-founder and editor-in-chief of Open Campus