Florida unveils online tool to weigh universities based on pay, student debt

The Florida Board of Governors launched an online tool this month aimed at helping students decide on a major at one of the state’s 12 public universities.

The tool, MyFloridaFuture, was mandated during last year’s legislative session by House Bill 1261, which also protected universities from liability lawsuits related to COVID-19, offered in-state tuition for the grandchildren of Floridians and “buy-one-get-one-free” tuition on some STEM courses.

The tool allows users to compare earning potential by major and school 1, 5 and 10 years after graduation. It also shows prospective students the additional earning potential of getting further education, typical student loan amounts and projected monthly student debt payments over a 10-year period.

For example, someone with an undergraduate accounting degree from the University of Florida could expect to earn $69,400 to $113,400 within 5 years of graduation, compared to $56,100 to $85,000 within the same time frame with the same degree from the University of South Florida, according to the tool.

Similarly, a search using the tool shows that a USF student majoring in anthropology could expect to earn $35,000 to $57,800, while a UF anthropology graduate could expect to earn $40,600 to $73,000 over the same period.

The data used in the tool is based on figures from the Florida Reemployment Assistance Program and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity through a federal system known as the State Wage Interchange System. It does not include information on whether graduates are working in the major they studied while in school.

“If a consumer is better informed, they’ll make better choices,” Marshall Criser, chancellor of the State University System, said in an interview.

Adding that it may sound strange from the universities’ perspective, Criser said the tool is something that is in the best interest of young people to make better decisions for their own financial futures.

“We recognize that not every student coming out of high school has to go to a state university to be successful in life,” he said.

Sometimes, he said, a student could have a passion in a certain area, but choosing one similar major over another could lead to a higher paying job.

“MyFloridaFuture will empower Florida’s students and their families to make knowledge-driven decisions to optimize their future success,” Brian Lamb, chairperson of the Board of Governors, said in a news release. “The trajectory of Florida’s 12 public universities in cost-to-degree, 4-year graduation rates, and graduate earning potential continues to rise, and we are grateful to the Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis for giving us the opportunity to design an innovative tool that highlights this success and enhances a student’s ability to select the right degree program to achieve their career path and maximize their success.”

The tool will be displayed on each university’s website as well.

Criser said the university system’s governing body has also tried to engage employers more in conversation in looking for the skills they want.

“Our business is not creating degrees, our business is educating students to be successful,” he said. “We’ve made ourselves responsible for them getting a job.”