Deciding what to do after high school is an important process for every student. However, it can be difficult for students to compare long-term financial outcomes across different post-secondary choices since this information is not easily accessible. Policymakers are tackling this issue with tools like the US Department of Education’s online College Scorecard, which includes earnings information for most colleges in the nation. Basis was part of a team conducting a three-year study to assess both the demand for and impact of these new outcome-based data on student college choice.
Students and parents at half of the schools participating in the study gained access to an informational website we developed that allowed them to compare the financial benefits of pursuing a degree in different fields of study across colleges. Students and parents at the other half of schools received a control version of the website that looked similar but did not include labor market outcomes. We worked with school counselors and other school leaders to distribute information about the availability of the tool and monitor use throughout the year. Using data provided by the Virginia Department of Education, our research team found that access to academic major-level earnings did not impact student decision-making. Simply making earnings data available online may not be enough to affect the behavior of prospective college students. Future efforts might test new strategies for distributing this information, like incorporating labor market outcome data into existing online college information platforms or targeting students earlier in their academic careers.