During the hunt for colleges, parents are increasingly asking admission reps this question: Will my child earn a good salary after graduating from your school?
Inevitably, parents receive enthusiastic assurances that their children will enjoy success in the job market if they select their institution.
While colleges brag about their high job placement rates, what they fail to mention is that the job placement figures typically rely on job surveys of their new alums, which are plagued with low participation rates.
GRADUATE SALARIES AND COLLEGE ROI
Luckily, there are more reliable ways to determine the kind of salaries that graduates of specific institutions are making right down to individual majors.
It is also possible to get a sense of the role that schools are playing, if any, in launching their grads in their careers. In other words, what is the return on investment (ROI) that schools are providing their graduates?
Using value-added measures is a way to compare colleges on a more equal footing by adjusting for the relative advantages or disadvantages faced by diverse students pursuing different majors across different local economies.
One of the advantages that value-added measures can compensate for is one that elite schools enjoy. Every year, these highly ranked schools excel at plucking “winners” from their applicant pool (wealthy teenagers with high ACT/SAT scores) rather than accepting applicants that they can help turn into winners.
A huge factor in graduates’ future pay is actually whether or not their parents are affluent. Grads are much more likely to earn better wages if they came from a high income household.
This reality means that it’s arguably more important where middle and lower income students attend college than upper-middle class and rich students. The non-privileged students need a college to give them a career advantage that they didn’t get by virtue of their birth.
Valuable College Resource
To measure whether a school provides its graduates with a career advantage, a resource for you is to take advantage of the value-added tools on the website of a nonprofit called Educate to Career.
ETC has created a college ranking system that enables families to identify schools that provide a quality education with proven career placement records at the lowest cost possible. ETC defines a quality education as teaching students a skill set that is marketable and that leads to a real career with stable earnings.
In evaluating schools, ETC determines the added economic value that an institution provides its students. It defines this value as being the improvement in earnings and employability of graduates that is measured against the total cost of the education.
The tools offered on Educate to Career’s website measure the career outcomes of graduates from 1,182 four-year private and public colleges and universities. You can read its methodology here.
College ROI Honor Roll
What you’ll find on the website is the ETC College Rankings Index of its universe of schools. Among the schools performing the best are some state universities (using in-state tuition rates only) that are reasonably priced for many of its residents and that produce grads who do well in the job market.
For the 2016 rankings, these are the schools perched at the top:
Among the private schools that are near the top of the list are some surprising names:
Educate to Career says the top third of schools among the 1,182 evaluated share this in common:
Salaries for New College Grads
On ETC, your can also check out the average salaries of graduates with a particular academic major in specific occupations. To find this valuable information, click on the site’s Career Counselors link and then the College and Majors Outcome button.
Where ETC Data Comes From
ETC’s data comes from Job Search Intelligence, which is a leading provider of information relating to educational attainment and career outcomes. Among Job Search Intelligence’s clients are more than 5,000 employers, including over half of the Fortune 500.
Q: Who files the FAFSA in situations with divorced parents?
A: If the parents of a student are divorced, the parent who has housed the child the majority of the year completes the FAFSA. For financial aid purposes, they are considered the custodial parent, with the responsibility of completing the FAFSA, based on where the child has physically lived during a 12-month period ending on the day the FAFSA is completed. It makes no difference which parent claimed the child on a tax return or paid child support.
It's important to note - colleges can and do ask for copies of the divorce decree, separation agreement and child custody agreement. If the parents are going to change the child's living arrangements to live with the parent with lower income, it is a good idea to get the court documents modified to be consistent with the new arrangement.
In addition to Educate to Career, here are three other websites offering grad salary and ROI figures.
Last year the federal government started releasing aggregate beginning salary figures for graduates at individual schools who have earned bachelor’s degrees. This salary data comes from graduates who either obtained federal grants, most notably the Pell Grant for lower income students, and/or borrowed through federal college loans.
This method, however, leaves out the salaries of many affluent students who did not qualify for federal grants and didn’t need to borrow. The available salary data covers roughly half of the new bachelor degree recipients.
Brookings Institution’s College Value-Added Tool
The Brookings Institution’s college tool focuses on measuring the boost that colleges and universities give their grads in terms of their earnings power and mid-career salaries.
The think tank measures what graduates at each of these schools would likely have made based on such things as their student demographics and majors and then how much they exceeded or failed to exceed those levels.
PayScale College Salary Report
For years the only easily accessible source of salary statistics for individual schools was the annual Pay Scale College Salary Report, which relies on workers voluntarily sharing their wages if they want to use its salary comparison site. The website ranks more than 1,000 schools by their salary potential.
I firmly believe informed parents pay less for college because they make wiser college planning choices. However, the right college planning strategies must be applied to your individual circumstances to pursue a best outcome.
However, you don't have to become an expert and do this all on your own.
No matter whether your kids are in grade school or high school, it's never too late to plan. I invite you to contact me at no cost to you other than your time for a no-cost initial consultation to explore your individual college planning circumstances, identify ways to cut costs, as well as answer any college questions you may have.
I can be reached at (209) 857-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.