To demonstrate more accurately the financial worth of college degrees, at least six states in 2012 explored the use of databases to publicly disclose income levels of graduates in specific fields. Virginia’s State Council of Higher Education brought its initiative to fruition in the fall through its Wage Outcomes Report, which provides information about the immediate employment/salary experiences of alumni who remain in Virginia after graduation. The report shows clearly that Virginia’s higher ed institutions have a profound, positive impact on the commonwealth and its citizens—and demonstrates that a degree still matters.
But prospective students and their families anywhere in the nation should be wary of using only information about salaries just after graduation when choosing a school or major. If, as has been demonstrated, recent grads will not just change jobs, but careers, as many as seven times in their lives (and many will hold jobs that don’t yet exist), they must have the communications, critical thinking, relational, and creative problem-solving skills that the liberal arts provide. Research has shown that graduates of our many outstanding liberal arts colleges may not have the highest-paying jobs right out of college, but they occupy president/CEO positions in disproportionately high numbers later in their careers.