College Majors, Debt and Earnings

MajorsEveryone knows that students graduating from college with a major among the STEM disciplines are likely to be very employable and to earn good salaries right from the start. “Student Debt: A Calculator Focused On College Majors” (David Leonhardt, The New York Times, 11/20/14)  reports on the findings in four broad categories of the recent Hamilton Study, which researched post-college employment and debt burdens.

First, the report cited what we already knew:  students who major in anthropology, drama, religion,(as well as philosophy, education, psychology music) etc. use 10% of their post-college income on debt repayment, while student who majored in engineering, economics, nursing, and computer science are devoting only 6% of their income to debt repayment.

Second, if we needed reminding (and I hope we don’t) about the economic value of a college degree, the report found that the typical college graduate’s income increases by 65% in the first years out of college. Interestingly, many college majors that do not lead to high-paying jobs right at graduation see marked salary increases is the following years (therapists, nurses).

Third, the typical debt, for a student who borrowed money to finance college, is $26,500, manageable for most young people with good post-college jobs.  The difficulty is that the payments start when these young professionals are earning their least, and therefore these payments take a larger bite out of income than they would in later years.

The report makes a strong argument for scaled loan repayments, accordingly to income, so that young graduates can afford housing and other basic expenses.

Sarah C. Reese                                                                                                                                           Informed Educational Solutions

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