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career path

New sites use research to help students select the right college

New site aims to help students envision return on investment for higher education choices

A series of state-specific websites, grounded in work conducted by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), will offer students a new way to plan for life after high school.

Its interactive features show the potential return on investment for a wide array of higher education choices.

The first “Launch My Career” website, launched in Denver, will help students identify in-demand jobs across Colorado and in particular regions of the state, and will help students identify majors, as well as degree or certificate programs, that will help prepare them for those jobs.

“Students are looking for ways to demystify the process of selecting a college,” said Mark Schneider, a vice president and institute fellow at AIR. “Launch My Career offers them real information on the return that recent graduates of specific programs have realized for their investment in higher education. It allows users to select a degree program or institution based on their interests or preferred jobs, and then compare how that degree has stacked up earnings-wise against the same degree from other colleges.”

The sites were developed by College Measures (a division of AIR), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Gallup Inc. Colorado’s website will be followed by the launch of similar sites in three states, including Tennessee, later this summer.

The project is one of four supported by College Value grants totaling $3.5 million from USA Funds. The grants support development in 12 states of new models for measuring college value to help students and their families, policymakers, and postsecondary institutions make better-informed decisions about the training and skills that will provide the greatest value to students and their communities.

The site attempts to answer some of the fundamental questions students have as they prepare for college: What jobs will there be? What skills do those jobs demand? And how do I find my best route to credentials of value?

Based on data from the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the site provides degree-seeking individuals access to data that lets them:
• Compare the earnings of those who completed specific programs to the financial investment required to graduate from a particular school and program
• Analyze the earnings of many career options, using data on those who have selected these options
• Understand the personal and professional satisfaction that accompanies different careers and courses of study

The tool also features a lifestyle goal calculator, showing the number of years it will take for the projected salary from a particular occupation to meet a user’s lifestyle goals; and a break-even calculator that demonstrates the number of years it will take after completing a particular degree program for earnings to exceed the total net price of the program.

“At a time when student debt is mounting and employers are struggling to find the right people with the right skills, it’s imperative students make informed decisions about the best way to prepare for in-demand jobs,” said Cheryl Oldham, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. “This tool will allow consumers to easily identify careers, majors, and institutions they’re interested in and compare the value of each program.”

“Students and families are increasingly concerned about the value of college,” said Carol D’Amico, executive vice president of national engagement and philanthropy for USA Funds. “Through this new resource, students can make more-informed decisions about their future with data that illuminate critical links and opportunities between student goals and pathways, institutional offerings, and workforce needs.”

Visit the “Launch My Career Colorado” website for more information.

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