UT System, US Census Bureau unveil graduates’ national earnings, debt

Maria Mendez

UT students now have a better glimpse at their economic future, thanks to an innovative UT System partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

On Monday, the UT System released nationwide data on the earnings and debt of its graduates. The data is the result of the first collaboration between the Census Bureau and a university system.

Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor for the UT System’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, said the national data will help students better understand the value and cost of a UT degree.

“The national data gives students and families a more accurate expectation of the return on investment in a UT degree,” Huie said. “This is the first time national salary data (has been) made available to students by program.” 

Previously, the UT System’s online tool, seekUT, only displayed the average earnings and median loan debt for UT System graduates in Texas. With new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, seekUT now shows the average earnings and debt of UT System graduates working and living across the entire U.S.

The interactive tool allows students to explore data for the different undergraduate, graduate and professional programs offered at the UT System’s 14 institutions. 

The data confirms economic differences by majors. A history graduate at UT-Austin earned a median of $38,609 in the first year post graduation, while a mechanical engineering graduate earned a median of $75,529. But Huie said the
median first-year earnings of two-thirds of non-STEM graduates across UT institutions are still higher than the national individual median
income of $35,380. 

“It’s okay to pursue a passion,” Huie said. “I think the data shows our liberal arts majors are doing well, more so than students might think.”

David Troutman, UT System associate vice chancellor for institutional research and decision support, said students and their families can use this information to determine which major and System university is best for them.

“Since we’re able to tie salaries to data on loan debt, a first-generation student, for example, can use the tool to better plan how much debt they will be able to afford in the future,” Troutman said.

Students can view earnings and debt of graduates as soon as one year after graduating and as far as 10 years after receiving a UT degree, which System officials said can also help graduating students prepare for salary negotiations.

The UT System shared the data, which is officially called Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes, with other higher education institutions Tuesday. System and Census Bureau officials hope their collaboration will encourage other universities to make similar
data public.

“Data is being used in innovative ways to better inform the public about educational outcomes in the labor market,” said Andrew Foote, a U.S. Census Bureau economist, in a press release. “Right now, we’re working toward integrating additional higher education systems in the Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes data.”