As steep college tuition costs at schools such as Boston University cause students to question the value of higher education, new research points to promising returns on career salaries.
The median starting pay for Boston University graduates is $46,000, according to data assembled by College Measures, an organization that focuses on making information about the costs and benefits of higher education more available. This figure puts BU in the 83rd percentile for starting pay among U.S. colleges and universities, the data stated.
“Our focus is on measuring the return on investment of time and money in higher education — from both the student and taxpayer perspective,” said College Measures President Mark Schneider.
College Measures tracks variations in wages of college graduates and traces this variation back to the program level, allowing them to determine which universities fiscally make the most sense to attend, Schneider said.
In addition, the average recent BU grad pays $3,671 in student loan payments annually, the data sates.
“Students should know more about … likely labor market outcomes … for their choice of school and major … before they take out 10s of thousands of dollars in loans,” Schneider said. “To use the title of a bill wending its way through Congress, students should ‘know before they owe.’”
Similar data indicates that the salary of BU grads increases dramatically as they gain career experience. Online compensation information company PayScale estimated the average starting salary of BU grads at $48,000 in their 2013-14 PayScale College Salary Report. However, the average mid-career salary for a BU graduate is $90,700, the report stated.
Although the prestige of the college a student attends is important, many other factors contribute to determining a graduate’s salary, said Kevin Lang, a professor of economics at BU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
“First, many of the advantages and disadvantages students bring with them to college remain after graduation,” Lang said. “Networks are very important for job finding, and if you had good family connections when you arrived in college, you probably still have them when you graduate.”
Calvin Chen, a College of General Studies freshman, said he thinks an applicant’s personal skills count more for their salary than the school they attended.
“Colleges are always talking about their employment rates after graduation, so that must mean something,” Chen said. “There’s a line though. Yes, better schools mean more job options and better pay, generally. Other factors come into play, too, though, like personality and work experience.”
Michael DeBakey, a CAS junior, said the value of an undergraduate degree pales in comparison to postgraduate degrees.
“Nowadays, undergrad isn’t as important as graduate or professional school, so I think a better school definitely sets you up for a job right out of college, and probably one with a higher pay scale,” Debakey said. “Career-wise, I think undergrad degrees have a slim, but noteworthy, impact.”
Paul Sliwinski, a College of Engineering freshman, said school plays a major role in how much a student can earn after college.
“Employers are looking to hire the best possible candidates,” he said. “If the employer knows the school you went to is reputable, you have an edge on the competition. A better school means more options, which gives you the opportunity to make more money.”