Come January, Florida students interested in attending a state university will have a new dashboard to consider if a specific college major is worth pursuing based on median student loan debt, salaries and other financial outcomes.
It’s called “My Florida Future,” and the idea is “to assist students and families in making better informed decisions about educational options and future employment opportunities,” according to a new law.
But the upcoming dashboard still may cause concerns on some fronts, following controversy last spring about “favorable” college majors and how they could impact higher education and student choices. At issue is whether the dashboard, with its financial components, could lead students to pick a major based solely on monetary reasons.
Republican State Sen. Dennis Baxley of Central Florida had originally pursued tying a popular merit-based scholarship program called Bright Futures to specific majors, so that high-performing students could only receive the scholarship benefits if they picked a favorable major.
But what majors? Liberal arts majors? Math majors? History majors? Business majors?
Baxley intended to promote employable majors and job security following college, but an outcry from professors, students and other Floridians led him to backtrack and opt for the language about the new dashboard.
Marshall Criser III, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, briefly mentioned the upcoming dashboard during a Tuesday Senate Education committee meeting, updating the committee on the status of Florida’s state university system.
“Quick plug: by January of next year you will see a new program, that was frankly as a result of legislation that began in the Senate last year, where we have developed a new platform called ‘My Florida Future’ where we will be able to provide to all of our students…the degree and the job outcomes, the salary outcomes for those degrees,” Criser said.
Criser said that the dashboard also will help students see how income levels change if a student pursues a graduate degree in the field.
“I would also add, in the work we’re doing, we are also looking at the issue of student debt,” including a debt calculator in the dashboard, Criser said.
Karen Morian, former president of the United Faculty of Florida, earlier in the spring, told the Phoenix that she was concerned the dashboard could be used to revisit similar legislation, such as the unpopular original version of Baxley’s bill.
“I think it’s a data-mining thing so that they can come back in a year or two and say ‘See, these are not profitable. We’re just going to close these (majors) to Bright Futures,’” Morian told the Phoenix at the time of the spring 2021 legislative session. “If that is what the plan is then that will be damaging,” she said.
The dashboard, which is to be posted to each state university’s office of admissions website, will provide at least the following information in every academic field:
(a) Post-graduation median salary 1, 5, and 10 years after graduation.
(b) Median student loan debt
(c) Debt-to-income ratio;
(d) Estimated monthly loan payment as a percentage of gross monthly income; and
(e) The percentage of graduates who have continued their education beyond the baccalaureate level.
This report first appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to coverage of state government and politics from Tallahassee.