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Program Wage and Debt Outcomes by Institution

Economic Opportunity Metrics

Of the thousands of Virginia high school graduates that enter a Virginia college or university the year after graduating, 65-68% complete a degree within 10 years. On average, those degrees have direct economic benefits with higher levels of earning accruing to each level of degree. At the medians, all levels of degree completers earn more than those that do not complete a degree. For example, earners completing an applied science associate's degree earn $34,568 per year compared to the $26,224 median wage of those that do not complete a degree. In the same vein, bachelor's degree completers have a median wage of $42,272, 10 years after entering college.

Why College - The Economic Value of College
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$ 42,272

is the median wage of students completing a bachelor's degree 10 years after entering college.

$ 40,057

is the median wage three years after completion for the Associate's Degree (Occupational/Technical Credit).

$ 42,506

is the median wage of bachelor's degree recipients three years after graduating.


is the largest major for the bachelor's degree in the Commonwealth with a median wage of$ 33,538


is the second largest bachelor's major in Commonwealth with a median wage of $ 47,771

$ 14,710

is the increase in median wages for bachelor's graduates between 1994-95 and 2012-13, three years post-completion.

$ 50,919

is median wage for AAS graduates 2014-15 becoming Registered Nurses, 18 months post-completion.

There is unquestionably much more to life and education than getting a job. Individuals pursue postsecondary education for a variety of reasons, including lifelong learning and personal skills development. They pursue higher levels of education to benefit their community, the Commonwealth, and the nation, as well as themselves. There is also no question that some individuals pursue a career as the primary focus of their educational pursuit. This is especially true when one considers the breadth of degree and certificate opportunities the public and independent colleges and universities of the Commonwealth have to offer.

In using the data contained within these reports, users should exercise great care to understand the limitations of the available data and their meaning. Wage outcomes of graduates do not measure the quality or effectiveness of any institution. Instead, they provide basic facts about the experiences of graduates after entering the workforce and indications as to broadest levels of outcome in the Commonwealth - full-time employment, part-time enrollment, and enrollment in higher-level programs.

SCHEV does not endorse or recommend using these data to evaluate program or institution quality. While it may be tempting to rank and compare programs at multiple institutions, any ranking that does not consider family wealth of the graduates, Virginia residency, and the mix of gender & race/ethnicity is necessarily flawed as all of these are factors in individual earnings.

    The first thing to know about the statistics within these pages is that one cannot calculate a placement rate or employment rate. This is because the data available (as described below) are limited to individuals working in Virginia and in jobs covered by unemployment insurance. This is far from everyone working.
    These data are not projections of what newer or future graduates may or will earn. Instead they are rigorous observations of the experience of a subpopulation of graduates. Users can use the distributions of wage outcomes by institution, degree, and major, as a guide to a range of possible outcomes. These outcomes, combined with data on debt that are presented in the reports, can help the user to determine if the range of earnings of past graduates will support the level of debt the user believes they might accrue.
    Users should understand there three things that really drive wage outcomes for a group of graduates at an institution: the mix of programs, the characteristics of the student body (demography matters); and the predominant locations in which graduates work (after all, Northern Virginia has generally higher wages then elsewhere in the state).


Debt: All debt figures refer to education-related debt processed through institutions. i.e. student loans. Unless specified as PLUS loans for undergraduates, the student debt refers to loans taken out by the student, not by parents or relatives. Further, reported student debt calculations are based on graduates who borrowed only. This is why we report the percentage of students/graduates wth debt.


Sample Budgets: These estimates are from the Living Wage project at MIT and are based on the estimated cost of a single adult living in Virginia. Tax and FICA withholding estimates based on a single, unmarried filer.

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Limits on the Display of Data

The most important limit to understand is that these short-term measures of outcomes are not meaningful for evaluating the effectiveness of institutions or programs. These are not measures of employment rates, nor they comparable to the so-called Gainful Employment metrics produced by the US Department of Education. These measure are meant to inform readers of the outcomes of graduates in the near-term following degree completion and represent individual behavior and local economies more than any other factor.

In order to protect confidentiality and to accommodate both the many small programs in the Commonwealth and the limits of the available data, these reports will display program-level data only under the following conditions:

1. Generally, single-year data will not be reported at the level of institution/degree/and program, only rolling five-year aggregates. For example, graduates of 2005-06 will be reported with those of 2004-05, 2003-04, 2002-03, and 2001-02.

2. Data at the institution and degree level, will be reported as annual data (without the five-year rollups). This is also true for data at the state-level for degrees and programs. 3. The number of wage-reported graduates must be equal to or greater than 15 with full-time wage equivalent (FTWE) reported wages.

4. At least 30% of the cohort of graduates must have been matched and reported with full-time wage equivalent (FTWE) reported wages, or 20% with a minimum of 200 graduates.

5. The current definition of FTWE is at least three quarters of wages must be reported for each year.

6. Wages and earnings are not adjusted for inflation.

The wage data included in these reports represent only the following individuals:
1. Graduates successfully matched to the Unemployment Insurance Wage records collected by the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).
2. Graduates employed in Virginia by an entity that reports to the VEC. This excludes federal employees, including those within the Department of Defense.

What employers are subject to the Unemployment Tax and must be registered and file with the Virginia Employment Commission? They must have met one of the following criteria:

  • One or more employees (ten employees if your operation is agricultural) for some portion of a day during any 20 different weeks in a calendar year
  • A $1,500 or more total gross quarterly payroll ($20,000 if your business is agricultural; $1,000 if domestic labor)
  • Acquired a business subject to this tax
  • Been subject to the Federal Unemployment Tax
  • A governmental operation or political subdivision
  • A nonprofit organization under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and had four or more employees for some portion of a day during any 20 different weeks in a calendar year

These criteria mean that individuals working as consultants, independent contractors (including many psychologists, counselors, barbers, cosmetologists, IT workers, and P-14 wage employees of the Commonwealth) may be excluded, as are a list of others that may be found here.