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Giving high school seniors information about their chances of finding well-paying jobs after graduating from college may have little impact on their choice of school or major, according to a new report from the Urban Institute.

THE TOPIC: Salaries of college graduatesWHY IT MATTERS: How much they would make after graduating didn’t factor into high school students’ college choices

Researchers gave students at participating high schools in Virginia access to a state-backed website called, which analyzed the average wage earned by graduates and the average cost of enrollment, sorted by university and type of program.

The students used the website rarely, and did not seem to base their academic decisions on it. During the three-year study, researchers were able to see where students ended up going to college, and what type of programs they chose to pursue. There was no evidence that access to salary data had a detectable impact.

“We didn’t see an appetite for this sort of information,” said Kristin Blagg who coauthored the study.

Blagg attributes this to the fact that high schoolers are already overwhelmed with information about colleges. They tend to gravitate to more comprehensive websites such as Big Future, Cappex and Naviance, which provide information about colleges, their application requirements and campus life, and ways for current and prospective students to share their experiences.

“Students are relying on lots of different sources,” Blagg said. “A one-off tool about labor outcomes is not something they are going to be looking at.”

This doesn’t mean the information isn’t valuable, or shouldn’t be provided, however, she said.

The next step, Blagg said, is to add information about graduates’ salaries to those larger websites students already use.

Most freshmen who entered college last fall ranked “finding a good job” among their principal reasons for going to college, according to a survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

Information about what they’ll eventually earn is particularly helpful for high-achieving low-income students, the Urban Institute report said.

A study of low-income students in Texas showed that it is equally important that students receive help with completing financial-aid applications, detailed information about college costs, and how to complete waivers that let them take the SAT and ACT college admissions exams for free.

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  1. “Finding a good job” sounds like a fair answer for the WHY College question, but why doesn’t tell you about HOW! My experience with high school students in a College Planning Center re HOW they decide where to apply/attend suggests five factors: size/ location, majors, competitiveness (can I get in), cost and something personal (e.g. Athletics, music program, peers).

    Parents ask about ROI, not students…

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