Groundbreaking Project Releases Nationwide Earnings of UT System Graduates

Christina Pena
March 28, 2018

The University of Texas (UT) System recently published aggregated data on the earnings of its graduates who move out of state. Enabled by a unique partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program, the project shows great promise for better information on the workforce outcomes of postsecondary programs and institutions nationwide. 

The UT System makes this information available to the public via its online tool, seekUT, which includes program level information by institutions within the UT System. The seekUT online tool now includes out-of-state as well as in-state data on graduates, showing their median earnings by program-level at one, five, and ten years after graduation, as well as their debt-to-income ratios. The tool also provides the percentage of students who pursue education beyond the baccalaureate level, and covers undergraduate, graduate, medical, and dental programs. Eventually, the project will release information disaggregated by U.S. region.

The addition of nationwide earnings data is important because graduates who move out of state for work tend to have higher earnings than those who remain in the same state where they earned their credentials. Moreover, graduate degree recipients tend to move out of state more than those who receive baccalaureate degrees. 

In order to produce the nationwide earnings information, researchers matched UT System student data with the LEHD's earnings data from states' unemployment insurance wage records and earnings data from the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management, with some exclusions. The project shows the ability of agencies to maintain stringent safeguards that protect privacy and maintain security around systems that match student data with information from other administrative records. This process could help to inform the creation of a national student-level data system.

Project leaders said this is the first time a postsecondary institution has collaborated with a federal agency to measure earnings outcomes that are more complete than what is currently available through the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. Unlike the Scorecard, UT System data includes non-federally aided students and shows the earnings of completers by program of study, rather than lumping together the earnings of completers and non-completers at the institutional level.

LEHD has been working with the Colorado Department of Higher Education and has been in discussion with other states to explore similar projects. The lessons learned from the UT System project will also inform the Census Bureau’s efforts to scale up other education research projects in the future.

LEHD is open to forming new partnerships with other institutions so they too can discover how their graduates fare in the workforce nationwide. LEHD provides more information about its methodology and data files, as well as contact information, on its Postsecondary Employment Outcomes project page.