Measure provides consumer-friendly higher ed data on graduates' average earnings, employment rate and more
AUGUSTA – A measure to provide students and their families with information that will help them make higher education decisions won broad support from education and business leaders during a public hearing Monday.
The “Know Before You Go” bill sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry of Bowdoinham would provide consumer-friendly information on the Internet about the actual employment rates of each program's graduates, their average incomes, monthly debt payments and other outcomes data by major and institution.
At a time when higher education costs are up while the job market remains down, it’s more important than ever that students and families are able to make informed decisions about college.
"Maine students are asking important questions,” Berry said. “‘If I graduate on time, what are the chances I will find a job in my chosen field in Maine? If I do, will I earn enough per month to live on and pay off my student debt?’ With this bill, we will for the first time provide the answers they need and deserve."
Megan Phelps, a student at Bowdoin College, said the measure would provide a significant resource for Maine students.
“It will allow Maine students and their families to make informed decisions about their educational investment,” she said in her testimony. “It is information that I wish I’d had access to and will be invaluable to future Maine leaders.”
Representatives of the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System, Maine Maritime Academy, the Maine Independent Colleges Association, Jobs for the Future and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce were among those who testified in support of the bill before the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future, which Berry co-chairs.
“The jobs of the future will require education and training beyond high school and many of the highest-growth and highest-wage jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or beyond. Maine students deserve to know how much this education will cost them so they can make wise, well-informed decisions,” Jessica Laliberte of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce said in her testimony.
Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, testified in support on behalf of the bipartisan Youth Caucus. He said the measure would be a useful tool for Mainers facing large student debts.
Maine students have the seventh-highest average student debt in the nation. Sixty-seven percent of 2012 college graduates in Maine have student loans to pay back, with an average debt of $29,300 per borrower.
“Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make, yet the financial burden and uncertainty keeps too many Maine students from pursuing their education,” said Senator Linda Valentino of Saco, the Senate Chair of the committee. “This bill is a good first step towards reducing uncertainty and increasing access to a college education.”
The bill would also inform policymakers as they assess higher education needs and give Maine colleges and universities a better sense of needs and trends in higher education and Maine’s job market. The measure would merge data held by the state Department of Labor and Department of Education.
Increasingly, states across the country are providing similar higher education outcomes data to the public. For example, the nonprofit CollegeMeasures.org has created websites for a number of states, listing graduates' average incomes and employment rates.
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