Above-average bucks for Troy U. graduates

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Lilly Casolaro

Staff Writer

Troy University graduates earn an average of $36,600, according to the College Scorecard released by the U.S. Department of Education in September.

The national average is $34,343.

The College Scorecard is a database of information on the average annual cost of attendance, graduation rate, earnings of students 10 years after first entering college, amount of debt incurred, and other financial and academic data on colleges nationwide.

According to the United States Department of Education website, the College Scorecard is a part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to “hold colleges accountable for cost, value and quality,” and “help students choose a school that is well-suited to meet their needs, priced affordably and consistent with their educational and career goals.”

“… My administration will release a new ‘College Scorecard’ that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria — where you can get the most bang for your educational buck,” Obama said in his State of the Union address in February 2013.

According to the 2015 scorecard, the average annual cost for students paying in-state tuition to attend Troy University is $11,168, while the national average annual cost of attendance is $16,789.

The numbers factor the amount of federal, state or institutional grant aid available to students.

The scorecard also states that 64 percent of students receive federal loans at Troy.

According to the scorecard, 54 percent of graduates are also paying down their debt, but it is lower than the national average of 67 percent.

Bekah Hughes, a senior psychology major from Mobile, is among the 54 percent loan carriers.

Hughes said that while loans were easy to obtain, she will be paying them off for years after she graduates.

“As soon as I started college, I had Sallie Mae (a student loan corporation) sending me mail, though I had not contacted them, and when I applied for a loan my sophomore year, it was approved,” she said.

The typical amount of federal loan debt for undergraduate students who complete college at Troy is $26,000.

“The amounts of loan I have are not nearly as much as some of my family members,” she said. “However, I anticipate it will take me about seven to 10 years to pay off about $15,000 in loans.”

Among Troy students, 48 percent have a family income less than $40,000 and receive an income-based federal Pell Grant, according to the scorecard.

Sonny Bedsole, a 2006 Troy graduate with a bachelor’s degree in social sciences, said that the investment he has put into his education is not equivalent to his workforce opportunity.

“I have been unable to find a job in this field with only a bachelor’s degree and have been paying off student loans for about seven years,” Bedsole said.

Another Troy graduate, Stephanie Washburn, is gearing up to start paying off her debts next month “for approximately the next 10 years.”

“As of right now, I do not feel that what I put into my education is equal to what I make in the workforce,” Washburn said. “I do have a job. It is a Pre-K teaching job, but my degree is in music education. I do not make as much as I would in my degree field. But I am working, and I am thankful for that.

“I look forward to eventually working in my degree field so that what I put into my work equals what I have put into my education.”

According to John Dew, senior vice chancellor of student services and administration, who is responsible for institutional research for Troy University, there are several factors to take into account when considering the results of the study, including the programs that the institution offers, the representation of the student population, and the overall payoff for students long-term.

He said readers should remember that the data and numbers presented are approximations because it is difficult for institutions to pinpoint exact earnings of their alumni.

“For an average to have much meaning, you will have to know what the range and the distribution are,” Dew said. “For institutions with engineering programs, the average will be pulled up because engineering graduates will have higher salaries that are sustained.

“In terms of jobs, such as a schoolteacher graduating from Troy compared to a schoolteacher who graduated from another institution, working in the same school system, our students will do very well in the workforce compared to those of other institutions in the like field,” Dew said.

Furthermore, students who begin at a community college, transfer to Troy and graduate here are not included in the results of the scorecard. Graduation calculations are based on first-time, full-time freshmen who graduate within six years.

Troy’s average graduation rate is 35 percent of students. The national average is 44 percent.

For Troy University, the population included in the study consists of students at Troy’s main campus, Dothan campus, Montgomery campus, Phenix City campus and e-Troy campus.

Those not included in the results of the scorecard based on the six-year graduation rate are students who began at a community college, earned an associate degree, transferred to Troy, or graduated with a baccalaureate degree from Troy.

“That is one thing extremely misleading about the results,” Dew said. “We get no credit in the federal statistics for the success of transfer students from community colleges because they did not begin at Troy.”

The scorecard also states that 74 percent of students return to Troy after their first year, which is above the national average of 67 percent.

On average, 61 percent of students who attended Troy University earned more than those with only a high school diploma.

“The reality for most students is that over your lifetime you do a lot better in terms of your earning potential in your career if you have a college degree,” Dew said. “So even if you have to borrow money, it will generally pay off in the long run.

“To be successful in college, you have to have some sense of delayed gratification and patience that the investment you are making now pays off many times over in the long run.”

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