How Much Is That Bachelor’s Degree Really Worth? compared to a high school diploma, asks Mark Schneider of AEI. Estimates run from $1.2 million over a lifetime to $279,893 (Charles Miller, Commission on the Future of Higher Education) to $121,539 (National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges).
Schneider’s first analysis shows a very high return with graduates of very selective colleges and universities earning much more than those who go to unselective schools. But returns to schooling drop when “opportunity costs” — tuition and years out of the workforce — are factored in. On average, he calculates, a bachelor’s is worth less than $300,000 over a working life. Once again, graduates from the most selective schools earn a lot more.
In “The Best Colleges for Making Money,” SmartMoney magazine looked at early and midcareer salaries for “graduates from fifty of the most expensive four-year colleges.” Factoring in tuition and fees, public colleges deliver more bucks for the degree.
For example, the University of Georgia delivers a “payback” nearly three times that of Harvard, and both the Universities of Delaware and Rhode Island outperform every Ivy League institution in the ranking.
Of course, Schneider writes, students’ earnings depend on their choice of major. “Ten years after graduation, those who were in the field of education earned slightly more than $30,000, while respondents who were in business or engineering earned twice as much.”
Degreees for selective institutions will hold their value, but unselective colleges’ degrees may not.
The Wall Street Journal has advice for college grads interviewing for unpaid internships in the hopes of qualifying for a paying job.