How Students Are Using Data To Comparison Shop for Colleges

How Students Are Using Data To Comparison Shop for Colleges first appeared on edCetera on May 16, 2014.
By: Kristen Hicks
We know that students are being pickier in their college selection than previous years and that cost and financial aid are bigger considerations than ever before. Students aren’t just looking at college as a place to make friends or find themselves, with grades and jobs as an afterthought. The student loan crisis means high schoolers are taking the loans they’ll be accruing into careful consideration and viewing college as a long-term investment that better pay off. wants to make the decision-making process easier for Texas students.  Texas has a good amount of data to put to use to help students make more informed decisions about their education. The site makes it easy for students to look up likely salaries for their desired major and college, based on those of the students that came before.  If the job prospects for graduates with the career path they’re hoping to pursue are considerably better for someone attending Texas State University rather than the University of Texas, they can figure that out before committing 4 years and tens of thousands of dollars.
The data digs pretty deep. You can get a personalized report based on SAT scores, household income and geographic location. You can see how earning trends work over several years ­– maybe kids with one major make less right out of college, but start earning much higher salaries about 5 years after graduation.
This information helps students ask some of the right questions at the right time in their educational career, and then easily find the answers they need.
What Does This Mean for Colleges?
If this trend in transparency spreads beyond Texas, which seems likely, colleges will face greater accountability for the success of their students. Facing a stronger incentive to prepare students professionally will mean a greater need to focus educational efforts towards the skills most valued in the careers students seek.
That doesn’t have to mean neglecting the subjects and courses that don’t have a direct professional benefit. There’s still a value in learning Shakespeare and Hitchcock. It does mean helping students build the bridge between what they learn in their courses and the job skills they need. Many courses teach things like analytical thinking, better communication and creativity ­– all skills that have value in a number of jobs. Students just need guidance in knowing how to communicate that on a resume or in a job interview.
Many in higher education will see negatives in how the student debt crisis is driving educational decision-making. Some changes might be questionable, but having a greater accountability to provide students with the education and preparation they’re looking for (and paying for) in a college education can be a good thing, as long as schools take the right lessons into account.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an insatiable interest in learning and experiencing new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring innovations and untraditional approaches to education for edCetera.

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