Sharing a Dataset of Program-Level Debt and Earnings Outcomes

Within a couple of hours of posting my comments on the Department of Education’s proposal to create a list of programs with low financial value, I received multiple inquiries about whether there was a user-friendly dataset of current debt-to-earnings ratios for programs. Since I work with College Scorecard data on a regular basis and have used the data to write about debt-to-earnings ratios, it only took a few minutes to put something together that I hope will be useful.

To create a debt-to-earnings ratio that covered as many programs as possible, I pulled median student debt accumulated at that institution for the cohorts of students who left college in the 2016-17 or 2017-18 academic years and matched it with earnings for those same cohorts one calendar year later (calendar year 2018 or 2019). The College Scorecard has some earnings data more than one year out at this point, but a much smaller share of programs are covered. I then calculated a debt-to-earnings ratio. And for display purposes, I also pulled median parent debt from that institution.

The resulting dataset covers 45,971 programs at 5,033 institutions with data on both student debt and earnings for those same cohorts. You can download the dataset here in Excel format and use filter/sort functions to your heart’s content.

Author: Robert

I am an a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville who studies higher education finance, accountability policies and practices, and student financial aid. All opinions expressed here are my own.

2 thoughts on “Sharing a Dataset of Program-Level Debt and Earnings Outcomes”

  1. Robert, this is exactly what is needed to publish a list of “Red Flag” programs. I hope the major media outlets and think tanks have an opportunity to analyze and disseminate information from that spreadsheet. #collegemeltdown

  2. Thanks for doing all of this work! You probably know this, but you unfortunately can’t add the student and parent debt medians to arrive at “overall debt,” because they are different populations (a much, much lower number of students use parent loans than student loans to get through school, in part because parent loans are only available to dependent undergrads). I think the restricted-use data sets offered by NCES have a weighted variable that is inclusive of both student and parent loan debt.

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