Alumni, data suggest BU degree worth the price tag

Facing an annual tuition of $33,330, Boston University students are likely to doubt whether their education will ever pay off. But interviews with Boston University alumni and administrators — along with a recent U.S. Census Bureau study that reports college graduates earn an extra $23,000 annually — suggest a BU degree is worth what it takes to attain it.

Kimberly Donaldson, a partner in law firm Chimicles ‘ Tikellis LLP in Haverford, Penn., said her BU degree has grown in value since graduation.

“I find that a degree from BU is regarded very highly, and BU has a strong reputation in the business and legal communities,” the 1996 CAS graduate said in an email. “I think that my degree from BU has certainly not hindered me and has certainly bolstered my résumé more than a degree from most other universities would have.”

But Joe Giza, a Boston Red Sox producer for CBS 4-Boston and TV38, said while he would not have the job he has today if he did not go to BU, the degree does not matter as much after accruing experience in the job market.

“BU probably helps you get your foot in the door early in your career,” the 1996 College of Communication graduate said. “But later in life, as your career goes along its path, I think it’s what you do with that opportunity.”

According to the School of Management’s Undergraduate Employment Report for the Class of 2005, student’s average base salary was $44,346, with an average signing bonus of $4,902.

The College of Engineering’s Career Development Office reported the Class of 2005 earned median starting salaries ranging from $40,000 for biomedical engineering majors to $56,500 for electrical engineering majors.

Career Services Office Assistant Director Deborah Halliday said the university’s largest college, the College of Arts and Sciences, does not track graduate salaries.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said while monetary wealth should not be the ultimate life goal of students after they graduate, those who receive BU degrees have a valuable asset when entering the job market.

“I think a BU degree has been increasing in value every year, as each class is incrementally stronger than classes a few years ago,” he said.

Riley said potential employers looking at résumés are attracted to BU graduates because they know the character of students applying for jobs, and employers know they are getting applicants who will contribute to their companies. He said recruiters frequently come to the university looking for potential employees.

However, Halliday said it is difficult to measure the university’s effect on graduates’ success in the job market because of “two different goals” students have.

Halliday said the office provides career exploration and advice for students who have a concrete vision of post-graduate life, including graduate school, employment and transitional experiences like the Peace Corps. The office also gives advice to those with a less-clear idea of future plans. She said the success of the second goal is more difficult to measure.

For those without a clear path after graduation, how far the BU degree takes them is tied to how well they took advantage of their undergraduate experience and enjoyed their intended major, Halliday said.

“A lot of people don’t think of that as being part of Career Services’ mission,” she said. “But it really is.”

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