Bill could change how college students pick majors

7:28 PM, Feb 12, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - This spring, thousands of students will graduate from the University of Minnesota. On Tuesday, Maggie Goshert was among those who got a head start on their job search during a career fair.

The mechanical engineering senior will likely make more than her liberal arts friends.

"They always say I should pay for dinner because I'm going to be making much more money than they are," Goshert said.

The average starting salary for a mechanical engineer major from the U of M is $55,000, according to data from the school's Career Center for Science and Engineering.

Goshert said she never knew how much someone with her degree could make. A bill being introduced on Capitol Hill this week could change that.

The "Student's Right to Know before You Go Act" would require all colleges and universities to report average earnings by students, as well as the average cost of a program and debt accumulated. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, unsuccessfully tried to pass it last year and will reintroduce it again this year.

Currently, most schools make the cost and debt information public, but not all keep tabs on student salaries. Requiring all schools to do it could prove difficult, according to Mark Sorenson-Wagner, the director of the career center.

"It can really be difficult just to look at an average number and figure out what does that really mean for the type of position I'm looking for," he said.

For the last few years, his office has posted student salaries online because a lot of families looking into the U of M asked for that information. A lot of employers also use that data, according to Sorenson-Wagner.

"A lot of them will come to us and ask us what our average salary because they want to make sure they're benchmarking the types of salaries they're offering to be competitive," he said.

He says money shouldn't be the only thing to consider when choosing a school. Goshert said she picked her major not based on money, but rather something she was good at and enjoys doing.

There are plenty of tools to help students compare salaries including the National Association of Colleges and and

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