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CO Advocates Share Perspectives on Increasing Learner Transparency!

The Cost of Clarity: Navigating Transparency at Denver University

In the bustling environment of Denver University, I find myself navigating financial uncertainties as a first-year student. As a low-income, first-generation individual, the weight of tuition fees and unforeseen expenses looms large, casting shadows over my aspirations for higher education. With every dollar holding immense value, the advertised tuition of $80,000 per year appears as an intimidating barrier, hinting at the financial challenges ahead.

Upon stepping into college life, I am immediately confronted with an array of unexpected fees: health and counseling charges, technology fees, and even costs for basic medical necessities like inhalers. Each additional expense chips away at my already limited resources, leaving me grappling with the harsh realities of financial strain in my pursuit of knowledge and opportunity.

In my quest for a brighter future, I pin my hopes on the promise of a degree in public policy—a path I believe will offer both personal fulfillment and financial stability for my family. Yet, doubts linger at the edges of my optimism. Without clear data on the return on investment (ROI) for my chosen major, I question whether my educational journey will indeed lead to the financial security I desperately seek.

The notion of enhancing transparency for learners resonates deeply with my current experience. Imagine if I had access to comprehensive information detailing the realistic ROI for a degree in public policy—information that not only outlines tuition costs but also forecasts expected salaries for careers within the field. Empowered with such knowledge from the outset, I could approach my educational journey with renewed confidence and clarity.

Transparency regarding the cost of tuition and expected salary for careers in specific fields would empower me to make more informed decisions about my educational and career trajectory from the very beginning. It would enable me to weigh the financial investment against the potential return, guiding me toward a more secure and fulfilling future.

Furthermore, this transparency could play a pivotal role in addressing the pervasive disparities faced by Black and Latino individuals in navigating student loan debt. National statistics indicate that Black and Latino students often bear a disproportionate burden of student loan debt, exacerbating existing socioeconomic inequalities. By providing transparent ROI data, educational institutions can help mitigate these disparities and foster greater equity in access to higher education and economic opportunity.

Consider a scenario where I, armed with transparent ROI data, confidently embark on my journey toward a degree in public policy. With a clear understanding of the financial implications and career prospects, I can approach my college experience with a sense of purpose and direction from day one. Financial planning becomes more strategic, career readiness is more tangible, and overall satisfaction with my post-secondary education is more assured.

Increasing transparency for learners regarding the ROI of different educational paths is not merely about numbers—it’s about empowering students like me to pursue our aspirations with confidence and purpose. By providing access to clear, comprehensive data on the cost of tuition and expected salary for careers in specific fields, educational institutions can equip students with the knowledge they need to navigate the complexities of higher education and chart a course toward a brighter future right from the start.

Aaliyah Berry is from Aurora Colorado attended Gateway High School and now is an undergraduate at the University of Denver studying Public Policy with a minor in Ethnic Studies and Critical Race. Aaliyah joined the Young Advocates program to explore her passion for advocacy and policy.

Decoding Education: The Power of Transparent ROI Data

As a woman of color from a working-class family and a first-generation student, I understand the difficulties of making informed decisions regarding higher education. As a transfer student, I faced additional challenges due to the lack of transparency around various degree programs’ return on investment (ROI). This left me feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about my future.

In my community, many individuals, including myself, find it challenging to select a college major due to the lack of crucial information about the financial and career outcomes associated with our choices. I began my university journey as a dance major but switched to criminal justice, and in my last semester, I realized that I wanted to pursue political science. The absence of crucial information about career outcomes makes college navigation extremely frustrating, and it shouldn’t have to be.

We embark on our educational journey with lofty aspirations, only to discover harsh realities such as student debt and limited job prospects after graduation. It’s a frustrating experience that many of us can relate to. I strongly believe that providing accurate ROI data could revolutionize the college experience for students across the nation.

By accessing comprehensive information on the cost of tuition and the expected salaries for specific fields, students will be able to make more informed decisions about their educational paths. This way, they can make the most of their time and money while securing a brighter future for themselves.

As a college student, I wish I had access to transparent ROI data. It would have helped me confidently choose a major that suited my interests and financial needs without feeling pressured to conform to societal expectations or familial influence. Access to this information would also have empowered me to develop a comprehensive financial plan, making my transition into the post-graduation workforce more seamless and reducing my student loan debt burden.

Transparency regarding ROI data is more than just desirable; it’s necessary for current and future college students. By providing students with access to this crucial information, we can empower them to make informed decisions about their educational and career paths. This will ultimately improve their overall satisfaction with post-secondary education and set them up for success in the future.

It’s time to level the playing field and ensure that all students have the tools they need to thrive in the increasingly complex landscape of higher education.

Gaby Garcia holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Colorado Denver and is a dedicated victim advocate and youth activist. She advocates for education, women’s rights, youth success, and equality.

Overpromised and Underdelivered 

In 2017, I made the choice to pursue a degree in information technology with an emphasis in cybersecurity. At the time, numerous high-profile cyber attacks were making headlines, and the industry was predicted to grow significantly in the coming years. My college guidance counselor assured me that with such a degree, I could expect to earn $80,000-$90,000 a year after graduation. Unfortunately, my journey after graduation didn’t unfold as promised.

I graduated without any work experience and entered the job market at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent six months job hunting before landing an entry-level tech support position that paid only $45,000—far from the $80,000 I had been led to expect. My college roommate, who also studied the same degree, managed to secure a job paying $55,000 a year. He had additional certifications, which helped him get the job, and his employer promised a raise to $60,000 after he completed even more certifications. None of my peers who graduated in the same year as me managed to reach the $80,000 mark that our counselors and the marketing materials for our degrees had promised.

Many students in STEM fields share similar stories. A coworker of mine, who graduated with a degree in computer programming, has been searching for a full-time developer job for almost a year without success. The narrative that STEM fields, especially computer-related ones, provide a fast track to an upper-middle-class lifestyle has proven to be misleading. The reality is that the entry-level job market for computer engineering and IT is oversaturated with fresh graduates and boot campers. The tech sector is experiencing a much tighter labor market than the broader economy, making it a challenging time to break into the industry.

Even those who managed to secure positions in cybersecurity do not expect to earn $80,000 anytime soon. The economic disruption caused by the pandemic and changing labor market conditions meant that planning four years in advance was not feasible for me. While more stringent regulations on how schools advertise the return on investment for degrees could help future students, it wouldn’t have changed my outcome drastically. The pandemic introduced unforeseen conditions that altered my career trajectory significantly.

Helping students understand the potential outcomes of their educational choices is a step in the right direction, but it is not a complete solution. We live in an era of decreasing economic mobility and increasing inequality. Providing students with information to make informed decisions is crucial, but we cannot educate our way out of an economy that prioritizes profits over people. We need to organize and advocate for systemic changes that address these broader economic issues.

Joseph graduated with a bachelor of science in information technology, with an emphasis on cyber security. He currently works as a server and labor organizer.