College-shopping students and parents deserve to know how much a college’s graduates earn, writes Ed Sector’s Kevin Carey in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
PayScale, a private company, ranks the return on investment for 1,050 colleges by calculating graduates’ lifetime earnings compared with what a high-school graduate would have earned, then subtracting the tuition and the money students didn’t earn while they were in school.
Cal Tech yields a 30-year net return of $1,713,000 for its graduates, according to Payscale. Berkley, the top public university for return on investment, nets $1,176,000. Shaw University, a private school, nets only $15,480, the lowest college ROI. Next lowest is the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, which nets $22,500 over 30 years. The University of Maine at Orono, smack in the middle of Payscale’s list, return $282,200.
At the moment, only two hard numbers are commonly used to judge college outcomes: graduation rates and student-loan default rates. That’s because everyone agrees that diplomas and loan defaults are important, and because diplomas and loan defaults are easy to count.Everyone agrees that earnings are important, too. Most students go to college so they can get better jobs after they graduate. That’s why many of the most popular majors, like business, teaching, and health professions, are essentially vocational. Colleges do much more than help students become economically productive, of course: In uncountable ways, they help people lead richer, more meaningful lives. But for most colleges and most students, career preparation is the heart of the work.
Illinois community college graduates earn 31 percent more, an extra $541,115 over their working lives, calculates the Illinois Community College Board. Those numbers could be broken down by campus, Carey writes. Or by degree.
Social Security will be tracking earnings to enforce the “gainful employment” rule. Why not use Social Security to track and report earnings for graduates of all college programs? Carey asks. Students and their parents face very expensive decisions. Before they write the first tuition check, they should have some idea about the likely payoffs.