No math, no money

Payscale’s new College Salary Report ranks colleges and universities, as well as majors for all degree levels, by alumni salaries.

Once again, petroleum engineering tops the list of bachelor’s degrees with the highest earnings. According to Payscale’s survey, petroleum engineering graduates start at $95,401 and reach $150,000 in mid-career.

It’s followed by Nuclear Engineering, Actuarial Mathematics , Chemical Engineering and Electronics & Communications Engineering.

Math teachers can tell students that all but one of the top 40 majors on the list require strong math skills. However, Government majors rank at #20 with a starting salary of $46,900 and a mid-career salary of $102,000.

Low-paying majors involve counseling, social work, ministry and, at the very bottom, early childhood education.

“TEM” degrees raise earnings, but “S” degrees may not, especially not with just a bachelor’s degree, writes Ben Casselman on FiveThirtyEight.

Engineering majors are nearly all high-paying. So are most computer and math majors, and math-heavy sciences like astrophysics. But many sciences, particularly the life sciences, pay below the overall median for recent college graduates. Students who major in neuroscience, meteorology, biology and ecology all stand to make $35,000 or less — and that’s if they can get a full-time job, which many can’t.

Zoology, with a median full-time wage of $26,000 a year, is one of the lowest-paying majors.

College pays — in different ways

It’s hard to estimate the labor market returns of college, concludes a new Aspen Institute report.

A Harvard graduate who becomes a teacher may earn less than a community college-trained engineer or nurse. A bachelor’s in history may have little market value — till it’s used to earn an MBA.

An associate of arts degree has no stand-alone market value, but it can be a low-cost step to a four-year degree that raises earnings.

Career-tech students — especially adult workers — improve their earnings even if they don’t finish their community college programs.

The Onion reports on Maryland senior Kevin Grant, who doesn’t realize that rejection by his first-choice college means his future is over.

“It sucks, but the good news is I did get accepted to Rutgers and Maryland, which are both really solid schools,” said Grant, somehow managing a smile even though his inability to attend his top-choice university has obliterated any possibility he will ever get into a good graduate school, embark on a satisfying career, or make enough money to support himself, let alone a family. “Tufts was probably a long shot, anyway, but I’m still glad I applied.”

“I’m sure I’ll be happy wherever I end up,” added the student destined for a life of limited opportunities, unending frustration, and bitterness.

It’s satire.

Report: College pays for taxpayers

California reaps $4.50 in benefits — higher taxes and less social welfare spending — for every $1 invested in the state’s universities, concludes California’s Economic Payoff: Investing in College Access & Completion, a Berkeley report for The Campaign for College Opportunity. The study did not look at the state’s investment in community colleges.

The return for college graduates is $4.80, twice the return for those who complete some college but don’t earn a degree.

In 20105, relative to those with only a high school degree, those completing at least a Baccalaureate of Arts (BA) can expect to spend an additional seven years working. While working, they will earn more; between the ages of 25 and 64 they can anticipate earning an additional $1.3 million in wages and salary, and receive more than an additional $1.5 million in total personal income, which includes all other income from sources such as rentals, investments, or transfer programs.

These college “completers” will also put fewer demands on the state’s safety net. On average, they are likely to spend two fewer years receiving aid, four fewer years in poverty, and will spend 10 fewer months incarcerated. As might be expected, the recession has widened the gulf between the more highly educated and those with only a high school degree (or less).

Of course, there’s a big difference in academic performance and motivation between people who never enroll in college, those who start but don’t finish and those who earn a bachelor’s degree.  If more low-achieving students enrolled in college or more marginal students completed a degree, they wouldn’t be likely to do as well as the high achievers.

Does college pay?

Does college pay? Employers pay more for workers with college credentials, writes Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Those sociology graduates working as bartenders and cashiers will move on to better jobs.

Overall, career colleges and professional training programs are booming, while liberal arts programs shrink.

Also on Community College Spotlight:   Two-year colleges will get $2 billion over four years to train “dislocated” workers.