What Will That College Degree Cost In Kansas? Online Tool Lets Families Know

Jun 30, 2017
Originally published on June 30, 2017 12:05 am

Students who complete an associate’s degree at Pratt Community College that prepares them to become electrical linemen earn just under $100,000 annually five years after graduation, according to a massive database now available online as an interactive tool. 

That is the fastest route to such high earnings among the more than 1,000 degree programs at Kansas’ 32 public two-year and four-year colleges and universities, a fact that doesn’t surprise the program’s director, David Campbell.

Graduates enter five-year paid apprenticeships upon completing their degrees, Campbell said. Then, as journeymen, they often face challenging conditions on the job.

“The risk of the heights that they work at — and the high voltages that they're around every day,” he said by way of example. “And then we also have the issues of the storms — ice storms in the winter time, blizzards, and tornadoes, thunderstorms in the summer.”

Publishing median earnings associated with each degree program is just one part of KSDegreeStats.org. Created by the Kansas Board of Regents and unveiled last year with information from all seven public universities in Kansas, the online tool as of Friday includes every two-year degree at in-state public schools, too.

Breeze Richardson, communications director for the regents, said the online tool also provides average costs, scholarship awards and loan debt for each program.

“You’ve got to play with the tool to find the hidden gems,” Richardson said. “You can explore your passions.”

A few ways to use the website include:

  • Selecting and viewing multiple degrees side-by-side. A mechanical engineering degree at Wichita State University costs about $5,000 less per year than at the University of Kansas, for example, but graduates at both schools show similar earnings.
  • Using the keyword search to find degrees matching a given interest. A search for “early childhood education” pulls up 14 related associate and bachelor’s degrees offered across the state.
  • Calculating potential loan repayment burdens. A KU journalism student tends to graduate with $28,000 in student loans. Repaid over 10 years, that’s an estimated monthly payment of $281.

Families can also change some of the data fields to reflect their means, and calculate cost, loans and debt based on that. For example, a student might know that he or she plans to work during school and take fewer loans, and can adjust the calculator accordingly. 

Related story: As tuition rates increase at Kansas regents universities, state spending per student slides

The state’s college and universities followed standards to ensure consistent reporting, and a glossary on the site explains each data point.

“We’ve tried to pull the curtain all the way back,” Richardson said.

The tool was designed so each degree program has an individual URL, allowing students, parents, teachers and counselors to save or share links to specific data.

The database does come with caveats. It doesn’t include certification programs that two-year colleges offer, such as programs for certified nursing assistants. Nor does it include graduate degrees or programs at private institutions.

The earnings information reflects income of students who completed a given program, excluding those who moved outside Kansas and Missouri, where the regents do not have access to this information. The information comes from state departments of labor. Graduates who went on to complete higher degrees are also left out.

So the earnings for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in math reflect those who went straight into the workforce with that degree, not those who then pursued graduate school before seeking jobs.

Where earnings data for a given program was available for fewer than five students, the regents did not publish their median income. This is meant to shield privacy. Additionally, information is unavailable for about 170 degree programs that are new or graduate too few students annually.

The information in the database is being updated yearly.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to kcur.org.

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