The UT System announced it is making a major update to its salary and interactive debt database, seekUT, with new features at a higher education conference Tuesday.
seekUT is a online tool that helps students compare salaries, debt levels and median earnings by major among UT System graduates. The system is planning to put medical and dental schools in separate categories to make it easier for prospective medical students to make informed decisions about going into the health care field, said Jessica Shedd, who helped create seekUT.
“For prospective medical students, it can really give you a sense of what to expect,” Shedd said. “What we really feel is important and helps students at any level, whether they’re medical students or undergraduates, is to be able to put their debt levels in perspective.”
However, even as seekUT plans to add new features to a stable core product they are pleased with, the System is struggling to reach its target audience: high school and college students. David Troutman, director of strategic initiatives for the UT System, said the website has been visited about 70,000 times over the course of a year. That means not very many of the System’s 250,000 students are using the tool, he said.
“Students don’t know about it,” Troutman said. “We’ve tried Instagram. We’ve tried Facebook. We’ve tried any kind of Twitter.”
Implementing feedback collected from students who have used seekUT, the system is trying to attract more users by making it easier to filter searches for salary data by individual schools they attend, said Paula Bales, communications director of strategic initiatives for the UT System. The System doesn’t want students to be confused by national databases that compare institutions, such as private and public schools, which are fundamentally different from each other, she said.
“We wanted to make sure that the students who were coming to UT institutions and that were graduating from UT System Institutions had the facts about students who were like them,” Bales said. “If someone graduated from a private school in the Northeast with $100,000 in debt, that’s not a very accurate picture for a student going to one of our institutions.”
However, students still prefer to use other online tools such as LinkedIn or Glassdoor during their job or graduate school search over seekUT, said Robert Vega, director of Liberal Arts Career Services. Vega also noted seekUT isn’t ideal for some students who are taking unconventional career paths or looking at out-of-state career options.
“We coach students interested in in-state, out-of-state and international careers as well as gap year and non-traditional employment options; therefore, we utilize and coach students to utilize national and international research tools and social media networks,” Vega wrote in an email.
Undergraduate studies sophomore Pearl Souvannarath, who plans on majoring in advertising, said she has never heard of seekUT but has looked at salary data for various majors using a different online tool.
“A lot of us base our majors on what we’re going to make after [graduation],” Souvannarath said. “It would be helpful to know what we’re getting into and whether it will pay off.”