What school will make you poorest? asks Jordan Weissmann on Slate. Every year, Payscale surveys college graduates to assess their earnings relative to their college costs. At almost two-dozen colleges, the average graduate’s “earning power won’t increase enough to justify the cost of tuition,” writes Weissmann. “To be blunt, these schools make students poorer.”
“Payscale doesn’t compare the alums of low-ranked colleges to demographically similar high school grads,” notes Weissmann. So colleges that enroll less-capable students will do worse at raising their earnings.
The Atlantic looks at colleges and majors that are the “biggest waste of money.” For example, “the self-reported earnings of art majors from Murray State are so low that after two decades, a typical high school grad will have out-earned them by nearly $200,000.”
Here are the degrees with the lowest 20-year net return, according to Payscale. Bold names are for in-state students. There are a lot of education degrees on the list.
Unless you’re attending a rigorous, high-prestige university, an arts degree is a risky bet, points out The Economist. “Of the 153 arts degrees in the study, 46 generated a return on investment worse than plonking the money in 20-year treasury bills. Of those, 18 offered returns worse than zero.”
The Payscale study overstates the financial value of a college education, warns The Economist. It compares graduates’ “earnings to those of people who did not go to college—many of whom did not go because they were not clever enough to get in. Thus, some of the premium that graduates earn simply reflects the fact that they are, on average, more intelligent than non-graduates.”