Federal data ranks NIU fields by median earnings, debt after graduation

By Dan Doren

DeKALB — Students with the steadfast aspiration of making the most money post-graduation might want to search within a degree category that sees a relatively small number of graduates.

Recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, released via an interactive tool called College Scorecard, reveals that graduates who earned bachelor’s degrees through electrical, electronics and communications engineering programs at NIU had, on average, the highest-earning careers a year after graduation, compared to all other fields of study the university offers.

{{tncms-inline alignment=”right” content=”<p>The following information is for those who earned an electrical, electronics and communications engineering bachelor’s degree.</p> <p>Number of graduates 64</p> <p>Median total debt $24,196</p> <p>Monthly loan payment $251 per month</p> <p>Median earnings $64,100</p> <p>Monthly earnings $5,342 per month</p>” id=”136dfdfc-a3a1-4d84-bdfa-b20b66a51184″ style-type=”info” title=”More Information” type=”relcontent”}}

The College Scorecard website defines a “field of study” as an entire category of programs offered by the university, as opposed to one particular program.

The College of Engineering and Engineering Technology offers Bachelor of Science degree programs in electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering, according to its website.

The U.S. Department of Education released updated College Scorecard data Nov. 20. This data shows post-enrollment earnings, loan payments and debts at any given college or university in the country.

Its main purpose is to assist students in making educated choices for enrollment, according to a technical document from the Department of Education.

The Department of Education has made tweaks to College Scorecard that were unveiled Nov. 20, as it now breaks down this data by field of study.

Prior to this change, median earnings and debt were provided only at the institutional level, according to a news release.

“[This] is a fairly meaningless metric given the diversity of programs and outcomes at any given single school,” the release says.

Electrical, electronics and communications engineering placed first in the category of median earnings by field of study at the university, with a reported average of $64,100 after one year among 64 graduates.

The data also shows a monthly earnings average $5,342 a month, while the average monthly debt payment comes to $251 a month.

There are 128 fields of study listed on the university’s page. However, only 39 of these have any relevant data on earnings.

A distinction is also made between those who earned a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in a given field of study; there were no relevant earnings data for the 16 graduates who earned a master’s degree through taking electrical, electronics and communications engineering.

Furthermore, the data only takes into account graduates who received federal financial aid.

“Because not all graduates received [federal financial] aid to attend school, data users should not assume that Scorecard data values are representative of all students who graduated from a particular field of study,” the technical document says.

The Department of Education reported in the university’s Scorecard that communication and media studies is the field of study with the most graduates, with 237 earning a bachelor’s degree; this is based on a total of 48 fields, as the 80 others don’t contain the relevant data.

Communication disorders sciences and services is the field of study with the lowest median debt out of the 40 with relevant data. The median total debt is listed at $19,642, with monthly loan payments of $204 a month.

Some other Illinois public institutions were in the same ballpark of highest earnings among graduates. The University of Illinois-Chicago also had electrical, electronics and communications engineering as its top field of study under this category, with an average of $67,200, which is $3,100 higher than NIU.

Illinois State University’s highest-earning field is construction management, with $64,500 in median earnings.

Both Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have computer science as their highest-earning, although the average for graduates of UIUC is significantly higher, at $92,200 compared to $62,600 at SIUE.