Preston Cooper writes for the Martin Center about the link between a college major and favorable employment prospects.

The College Scorecard, a Department of Education initiative that publishes data on student debt and earnings after graduation for thousands of schools, just got a major update. Previously, the Scorecard’s major shortcoming was that it only reported data at the institution level—so we could see how much a typical graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill earns, but not how much an engineering major earns relative to an education major.

Since the payoff of a college education varies wildly by field of study, the usefulness of this dataset to students was limited.

No longer. Last Wednesday, the Department unveiled a new edition of the Scorecard which allows prospective students to view these outcomes data by both institution and program. The updated Scorecard publishes a dashboard geared toward prospective students, as well as comprehensive files to help researchers and journalists analyze the data en masse. The data includes median student debt and median earnings after graduation for some 41,000 programs.

While the data have limitations—debt and earnings figures are suppressed for small programs due to privacy concerns, and the earnings data only reflects the first year of student income after graduation—the new Scorecard will do much to advance our knowledge of student debt and earnings across tens of thousands of educational programs.

For instance, in the average bachelor’s degree program, students leave school with a debt burden equal to about 80 percent of their salary in the first year after graduating college.