College pays off for graduates of top-ranked colleges and university, concludes a study analyzed by Gene Expression. In fact, a Harvard graduate can expect to earn $4,000 more a year at age 28 than a graduate of ninth-ranked Dartmouth and $18,000 more than 25th-ranked UCLA. The pay-off levels off for colleges ranked 75 or lower: A lower-ranked college graduate averages $43,000 a year at age 28, while a high school graduate averages $30,000.
So those guys just gave up ~$120k in earnings, plus paying college tuition, for the privilege of making ~$44k by age 28.
Research suggests that going to the high-ranked college — not just being smart enough to get in — makes a big difference in earnings. So it’s safe to borrow to go to Harvard instead of U-Mass, not so safe to borrow to attend a second-tier private college.