Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, has made it his homework to give students and parents more information about the financial payoff for a college education. He plans to reintroduce a bill this year that would publish the average salaries of college graduates by college and field.
Before a family or a student starts spending and borrowing, it’s information they should have. It’s easy for the cost of college education to blitz right past $100,000. And while costs of dorms, costs per credit hour, costs of meals can be found, where is the information about bang for the buck?
Investing in college usually comes with debt. About 63 percent of 2011 Oregon college graduates had student debt, according to a report from The Project on Student Debt. Of those students who earned a bachelor’s degree in 2011, the average student loan debt was $25,497. Nationally, the total student debt is a whopping $1 trillion. That’s bigger than national credit card debt and car loan debt.
We haven’t seen a draft of Wyden’s new bill. The version he introduced last year sought to make more information about salaries accessible to parents and students without creating a new government program and without violating the privacy of students. Ten states produce or are about to publish such salary data this year, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Colleges and states have pointed out that Wyden’s bill adds a new burden to compile the information. We don’t dispute that. It’s also true that most students already know that if they pursue a degree in English, they will find it harder to make as much as a roommate who gets an engineering degree.
But Congress should support Wyden’s idea. Give students a chance to make more informed decisions about the increasingly pricey college experience.