$100K in Debt for a $50K Job

Wall Street Journal investigates USC’s high-priced online social work master’s program that recruited low-income students

(EWA Radio Episode 282)

The Wall Street Journal’s investigations team is tackling the student loan debt crisis from multiple angles, including digging into questionable recruiting and loan practices by top schools. Case in point: the University of Southern California’s online graduate program in social work. It charged $115,000 for a master’s last year.

The school offered very little grant aid, so the many students who couldn’t afford that high tuition were encouraged to borrow. The median debt of recent graduates who borrowed: a whopping $112,000. The debtors’ median salary in their first two years after graduation was less than half that: just $52,000.

Data journalist Andrea Fuller explains how the WSJ team found unexpected stories while crunching the available federal numbers on what students and parents owe, and how they came up with estimates of the short-term returns on big-ticket degree programs. She shares tips for identifying red flags in College Scorecard and loan data, and suggestions for how reporters can avoid perpetuating a false narrative that postsecondary education is never worth the cost.

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