Money & Business

New Tool Helps Students Calculate Their Degree's ROI

By / Feb 21, 2014 (iStock/Thinkstock)

A new online calculator helps to inform students of the average amount of student loan debt as well as the median salaries they might expect to earn after obtaining various college and graduate degrees.

Student loan debt in the United States currently tops $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It’s no secret that the college debt crisis is of growing concern and is having an impact on a number of industries, including real estate and medicine.

This clear, customized tool empowers students to make more-informed decisions about their educational and career pathways.

One group is trying to address the crisis by helping students assess the value of their investments in higher education and make better-informed career decisions.

The Council of Graduate Schools this week launched an online platform, GradSense, which combines federal data on both education debt and median salaries for various occupations, allowing students to calculate what various degrees may be worth.

“GradSense provides students with crucial financial information that was never easily accessible or available before,” Debra W. Stewart, president of CGS, which represents more than 500 higher education institutions in the United States and Canada, said in a statement. “This clear, customized tool empowers students to make more-informed decisions about their educational and career pathways.”

To use GradSense’s online calculator, individuals select a degree level (bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, or professional), a field of study, and an occupational area. The calculator then displays the average debt and median salary of students who graduated and are working in that field.

GradSense also provides information on repayment plans, the basics of compound interest, and evaluating and negotiating job offers.

The number of students graduating with student loan debt rose by 4 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to a 2013 report by the Institute for College Access and Success [PDF]. The same report found that college graduates who obtained a bachelor’s degree in 2012 had on average $29,400 in student loan debt.

Created in collaboration with financial services provider TIAA-CREF, GradSense is part of CGS’s and TIAA-CREF’s Enhancing Student Financial Education project, which recently awarded grants to 15 colleges and universities across the country to create financial literacy programs for students.

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. More »

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