Monday, April 29, 2013

Some uncomfortable data about earnings of university graduates

Over the last 40 years the earnings gap between workers with and without college degrees has steadily widened.  Even allowing for recent increases in tuition and student indebtedness, for the average student college continues to be one of the best investments he or she can make.

But is it still the case?  Weekend WSJ ran a piece by Jeffrey Selingo who raises some legitimate questions about returns to higher education.   Two of his key points have been established in a number of recent studies: (1) there is a lot of variation in earnings by major (engineers and business  do better than liberal arts) and (2) there is a lot of variation by university (Harvard grads do better than U of Phoenix grads).

The biggest surprise, however, is that in some states recent graduates from community and technical colleges are earning more than recent graduates from four-year schools.  A website called now tracks earnings data by school and major in five states and the community and technical college grads were doing better than the college grads in all five.  This is not an apples to apples comparison, because it does not take into account tuition costs, odds of finishing, odds of being employed, who was continuing their education after finishing school, and wages of graduates who move out-of-state.

The second biggest surprise is that some big-name schools had mediocre earnings records.  The University of Colorado at Boulder ranked sixth in the state, behind Metro State, Denver, Regis, UC-Denver, and Colorado School of Mines.  Colorado State was tenth, just behind Colorado Mesa.  

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