To better understand student earning and debt after graduation, the UT System will be gathering data about students who are one year and five years out of school and publish the findings on a new website, seekUT.
Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor for the UT System Office of Strategic Initiatives, said her office was responsible for creating the seekUT site.
“I knew that there was a need for us to look at what happens to our students after they graduate,” Huie said.
Thomas Melecki, director of Student Financial Services, was a member of the task force that led to seekUT’s creation.
“I do think they did a really nice job with it,” Huie said. “This is a tool that, at least, could suggest what might be an affordable level of borrowing, especially if a student uses this in conjunction with some other tools that are provided by the U.S. Department of Education.”
Huie said her office partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to acquire the data available on the website. According to Huie, employers in Texas are required to file information about every employee’s wages to the Texas Workforce Commission.
“We developed an agreement with our legal counsel within [the UT System] and within the workforce commission so that we could match the unemployment insurance with the student records so we could find out, of these students [who] graduated, where are they working and in what fields and how much money are they making, one and five years later,” Huie said.
According to Huie, seekUT only provides information about students who find employment in Texas following their graduation, but not those who venture out of the state.
“It’s very hard to track students once they leave the state,” Huie said. “We decided, for now, just to focus on Texas because we had such a large sample and sort of brainstorm and talk to different people about ways we might be able to capture the other students that leave at a later date.”
Melecki said users should be careful about the way they process the data available on seekUT.
“Ten years of paying back a student loan, while difficult and could make me eat a lot of ramen noodles … might be a price worth paying for a 40- or 50-year career in something I love doing that I’ll get a great deal of satisfaction out of,” Melecki said, as an example.