College students are earning 8% less in 2013 than in 2008 per the most recent data published by the US Department of Education College Scorecard database. Students earned $31,382 in 2013 compared to $34,119 in 2008. The earnings were ostensibly flat from 2012 earnings of $31,528.
The College Scorecard database was established last year to encourage competitive evaluation of institutions. The earning data were the first attempt at integrating earnings data from the Treasury data against the specific institution attended. It links the student social security number per tax filings to the FAFSA form. Thus, only students applying for some form of financial aid are included in the earnings calculation. This data used in our analysis is based on student’s earnings six years after entry. The Treasury has no visibility into whether those students graduated from those institutions or even how long they were there.
Despite the limitations of this data, it is the first national comparison of earnings data across institutions giving higher education professionals a wide lens look at how students are performing. The College Scorecard database also segments earnings by gender, dependency status, and family income based on these categories on the FAFSA. You can access a free viz here that gives you institution earnings over the last four reporting years.
In analyzing this data, we uncovered some interesting variations by type of institution. The Public Insight Student Earnings Interactive gives you the ability to define any peer group comparison to see how students compare in and among institutions. For example, comparing institutions by sector, private institutions have experienced less of a recovery than public institutions.