Colleges publicize graduates’ pay

California State University campuses are publicizing their graduates’ earnings to persuade the public that college is worth the cost, reports the San Jose Mercury News. San Jose State, which educates many Silicon Valley engineers, reports graduates’ mid-career median salary is $92,900.  Only Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which also graduates many engineers, boasts higher pay.

California’s public universities raised tuition by 32 percent last year. Cal State plans another 15.5 percent hike by next fall. University of California fees are likely to rise by another 8 percent. For most students, a taxpayer-subsidized state university education will provide a good return on investment: College graduates earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates and have lower unemployment rates. But some majors are more lucrative than others.

Within the next six months, 300 public universities will post salary information compiled by

The data — which only includes graduates with bachelor’s degrees — shows that students with the greatest “return on investment” are those who do well in technical majors, such as science or engineering, at a rigorous public school.

For instance, graduates of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo earn just as much as graduates of the private Pomona College or University of Southern California — at less than half the cost.

The return on investment is very different for students who go into debt to attend an expensive private college and pursue a non-technical major, says Al Lee, director of quantitative analysis at Payscale. That theater major may not pay off. Those who don’t graduate – – 40 percent don’t complete a degree — are in worse shape.

Private college can be cheaper than the University of California, reports the Sacramento Bee. Middle-income students who don’t qualify for a UC scholarship can get discounted tuition at many private colleges.

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  1. Caveat emptor if the graduation rate at the school is <85%. SJSU has a 6 year graduation rate of only 42%.

  2. I never knew that Cal Poly was part of the CSU system. I’d always assumed it was part of UC.

  3. Cardinal Fang says:

    Crimson Wife writes: Caveat emptor if the graduation rate is less than 85%.

    That’s a lot of caveats. Of all the California publics, both UCs and Cal States, only UC Berkeley, UCLA and (barely) UC San Diego have graduation rates above 85%. Very few colleges anywhere in the US have graduation rates that high.

  4. We could quibble about the precise threshold (85% vs. 80% vs. 75%) but the point I was trying to make is that students should beware rosy numbers from colleges unless there’s a sufficiently high percentage of students who graduate within 6 years.

  5. Cardinal Fang says:

    Yes, or else they should publish the median salary of all the students who start at the college, instead of the graduates.