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College Rankings Based on Earnings and Debt by Major

CCEdit_TorreyCCEdit_Torrey 36 replies353 threads Editor
A new report uses data from the Department of Education to rank colleges based on alumni earnings and debt by major. https://insights.collegeconfidential.com/college-rankings-by-major
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Replies to: College Rankings Based on Earnings and Debt by Major

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83807 replies743 threads Senior Member
    Based on the listings at the linked site https://www.gradreports.com/best-colleges , it looks like engineering majors tend to be relatively flat across the top 25 colleges listed for each major. An apparent anomaly is electrical engineering with the top 3 having much higher new graduate pay levels, but #1 and #2 there have EE as part of an EECS major (where most students emphasize CS), and #3 has an ECE major with an option to include a significant amount of CS.

    Also, be wary of assuming that STEM majors mean high pay. Biology is one of the largest STEM majors, but the pay levels shown are not that high.
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  • CU123CU123 3724 replies77 threads Senior Member
    edited February 11
    Here are the top 3 Criminal justice majors, the third number is the median salary, am I suppose to believe that a graduate from Union Institute & University is earning TWICE as much as the #2 University. This type of data is seriously flawed which brings into doubt all of the data and how they collected it.

    #1
    Union Institute & University
    $12,896 (tuition)
    $17,850 (debt)
    $109,800 (salary)
    #2
    Herzing University
    $13,850
    $17,965
    $57,600
    #3
    Central Christian College of Kansas
    $17,240
    $17,886
    $51,800

    Seriously, organizations put out data and we take it as gospel when (in this case) its garbage. I mean did DOE put an intern on this and just let them publish it?
    edited February 11
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  • MWolfMWolf 2752 replies14 threads Senior Member
    The salary data from College Scoreboard in all from students who receive federal loans. According to the College scoreboard, 21% of Brown undergrads receive federal loans. About 260 CS majors graduate from Brown a year, so we're talking about maybe 52 students a year. Because of all the different uncertainties and data issues, the CS data sets from Brown or Harvard aren't very informative. So their high ranking by College Scoreboard in these fields is unreliable.

    It is an interesting human characteristic that humans either ignore data, especially when it contradicts one's dearly held belief, while, on the other hand, people will often accept data analysis conclusions as dogma, without any critical review of the data quality or the analysis, or of whether the conclusions are justified, because they believe that it's "scientific".

    @CU123 While the rule of Data Analysis is GIGO, often the data is good, and the analysis is good, however, the conclusions are still unjustified. If the data which the College Scoreboard was non-representative, you can have these types of results. Data samples which are too small tend to be non representative, and therefore often produce results like Brown having the highest median salary for CS, or that the median salary for Criminal justice majors who graduated from Union Institute & University was $109,800.

    The problem is not that the data or the analysis were garbage. It is that they should not be generalizing from their results, because of the sample size and other issues.

    On the other hand, I would accept that median salary they calculate for CS majors from CMU, MIT, or any of the public schools with very large undergraduate CS programs is a reliable indicator of whether these programs are a good choice, financially.
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  • foobar1foobar1 235 replies2 threads Junior Member
    This data may be unsettling to some posters on CC. Can you really believe the nursing graduate from "Sonoma State" has a median starting salary of $110,000 while the Harvard history graduate has a median starting salary of $48,000?
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 2468 replies37 threads Senior Member
    One of the first lessons a student learns in college is

    "Garbage in, garbage out".
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  • MWolfMWolf 2752 replies14 threads Senior Member
    foobar1 wrote: »
    This data may be unsettling to some posters on CC. Can you really believe the nursing graduate from "Sonoma State" has a median starting salary of $110,000 while the Harvard history graduate has a median starting salary of $48,000?


    Supply and demand. Nurses are in very high demand across the USA, while historians are not, even if they have Harvard degrees in history.

    A nurse makes a higher entry level salary than a historian, and a nursing degree from any reputable university is generally good enough to get a person hired at most work places.

    A starting salary of $48,000 for a history major is an amazing salary. People from low income families graduating with a BA in history from lesser known colleges usually are making in the upper $20Ks, to the lower $30Ks.

    A median salary of $110,000 for a nurse with a BSN and one year of experience does seem high. However, if they have a ADNs and attend Sonoma State to finish their BSN, they are newly graduated BSN, but have a good number of years experience already, despite having "just graduated a year ago". It also helps that California has some of the highest salaries for nurses, and Sonoma State is in an area which is very high CoL, and the salaries reflect this.

    So while $110K still seems high for the median, nurses who are earning salaries like this within a year of graduating would not be uncommon.
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  • 2plustrio2plustrio 395 replies7 threads Member
    edited February 11
    MWolf wrote: »
    foobar1 wrote: »
    This data may be unsettling to some posters on CC. Can you really believe the nursing graduate from "Sonoma State" has a median starting salary of $110,000 while the Harvard history graduate has a median starting salary of $48,000?


    Supply and demand. Nurses are in very high demand across the USA, while historians are not, even if they have Harvard degrees in history.

    A nurse makes a higher entry level salary than a historian, and a nursing degree from any reputable university is generally good enough to get a person hired at most work places.

    A starting salary of $48,000 for a history major is an amazing salary. People from low income families graduating with a BA in history from lesser known colleges usually are making in the upper $20Ks, to the lower $30Ks.

    A median salary of $110,000 for a nurse with a BSN and one year of experience does seem high. However, if they have a ADNs and attend Sonoma State to finish their BSN, they are newly graduated BSN, but have a good number of years experience already, despite having "just graduated a year ago". It also helps that California has some of the highest salaries for nurses, and Sonoma State is in an area which is very high CoL, and the salaries reflect this.

    So while $110K still seems high for the median, nurses who are earning salaries like this within a year of graduating would not be uncommon.

    Nursing salaries are very geographical dependant. Cost of living is higher in California and New York and the list showing highest salaries reflects this in their school lists.

    A new grad nurse in Cali very likely starts out at $50/hr whereas new nurses in my Midwest area only make $25-30/hr to start.
    edited February 11
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  • CU123CU123 3724 replies77 threads Senior Member
    edited February 11
    @Mwolf unfortunately I doubt any statistical analysis was done on this data (mean errors, regression, etc.) Bottom line some of this may be good, some is definetly bad, so my scientific mind says it ALL has to be thrown out and then start again with much more rigourous statistical analysis in order to validate these conclusions. Instead we just have bad data/conclusions. I'm guessing the Union Institute data is so anomalous as to have a single data point backing it up.

    I'll take this one step more, if an actuary had done this kind of analysis they would have been fired they hit the send button.

    This is so irresponsible, If some kid saw this and thought damn, I'm blowing off Penn (and my Finance major), heading to Union Instititute and majoring in Criminal Justice because financially I'm going to do better...............just crazy.
    edited February 11
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  • 2plustrio2plustrio 395 replies7 threads Member
    2plustrio wrote: »
    MWolf wrote: »
    [quote="foobar1;c-

    Nursing salaries are very geographical dependant. Cost of living is higher in California and New York and the list showing highest salaries reflects this in their school lists.

    A new grad nurse in Cali very likely starts out at $50/hr whereas new nurses in my Midwest area only make $25-30/hr to start.

    Talk to text errors. Sorry.
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  • bloomfield88bloomfield88 348 replies0 threads Member
    In addition to all the other faults cited above, any salary data from any source, not taking into account the cost of living and taxation doesn't tell the full story. In addition to quality of life, income AFTER EXPENSES matters.

    Why are so many working citizens migrating from high pay big cities to lower pay medium sized and small cities for the past decade and increasing the one-way out moving truck business every year? It isn't just horrific traffic, regulations and stepping into excrement on the sidewalk, although they are push factors too.
    One of several studies: https://www.kron4.com/news/california/more-than-half-of-californians-want-to-move-out-survey/

    If any college in Manhattan or the Bay Area doesn't have higher paid grads than colleges predominantly placing kids in the midwest, south, etc... then it is in really bad shape.

    Who cares if a kid makes $20,000 more in giant metropolis USA where the glitz of big city life wears off, than grads in other cities and towns where the cost of living and lower taxation equates to the equivalent of $30,000 more and the quality of life is so much better? So many young adults we know who ended up in 3 big cities and live in overcrowded conditions in hovels in rough neighborhoods. They are getting a good dose of how little higher pay means when you don't take into account all the other factors.

    Then, there is the factor of majors with high starting pay, but the maximum pay differential 10 years in the future isn't that much better (low glass ceiling) vs lower starting pay endeavors with high pay potential for people that excel.
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  • Data10Data10 3373 replies11 threads Senior Member
    edited February 11
    CU123 wrote: »
    I'm guessing the Union Institute data is so anomalous as to have a single data point backing it up.
    Your guess would be incorrect. The database does not provide earnings information when sample size is very small. Union Institute had a federal tax reported earnings sample of 139 criminal justice management majors over the 2-year period, which was a statistically significant portion of the total CJM graduates. One clue about why the first year earnings are so high is the age of graduates. In the most recent IPEDS year, the age category with the largest representation was mid-career employees aged 40-49. Only 2 students at the entire college (all majors) were under 20. I expect those 2 traditionally aged underclassmen and others with little experience did not start out at 6-figure salaries.

    The information is not useless, but one needs to consider the context when interpreting results.
    edited February 11
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  • onetteonette 359 replies5 threads Member
    Very interesting
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  • CU123CU123 3724 replies77 threads Senior Member
    Data10 wrote: »
    CU123 wrote: »
    I'm guessing the Union Institute data is so anomalous as to have a single data point backing it up.
    Your guess would be incorrect. The database does not provide earnings information when sample size is very small. Union Institute had a federal tax reported earnings sample of 139 criminal justice management majors over the 2-year period, which was a statistically significant portion of the total CJM graduates. One clue about why the first year earnings are so high is the age of graduates. In the most recent IPEDS year, the age category with the largest representation was mid-career employees aged 40-49. Only 2 students at the entire college (all majors) were under 20. I expect those 2 traditionally aged underclassmen and others with little experience did not start out at 6-figure salaries.

    The information is not useless, but one needs to consider the context when interpreting results.

    Thanks for investigating, now we know the source of the anamalous data!
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 2442 replies39 threads Senior Member
    While the nursing number sounds high, the history major salary sounds right, if not high.

    A quick browse of Union Institute’s website told me right away that this was likely adult/continuing education that resulted in the data that was shown.

    When data doesn’t match what you expect, it can be valuable to investigate rather than just declaring it wrong.
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  • CU123CU123 3724 replies77 threads Senior Member
    I agree with the research but the title is totally misleading, nor do I think that CS is more valuable coming from Brown than MIT. JMHO. Not really interested in doing all the research but I'd be happy for someone else to. ;)
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83807 replies743 threads Senior Member
    Then, there is the factor of majors with high starting pay, but the maximum pay differential 10 years in the future isn't that much better (low glass ceiling) vs lower starting pay endeavors with high pay potential for people that excel.

    However, those in the latter category need to realize, that, while some (for example) biology graduates become high paid CEOs or whatever later, most do not.
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  • rickle1rickle1 2674 replies22 threads Senior Member
    Context is key.
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  • coolguy40coolguy40 2942 replies8 threads Senior Member
    Yeah, like I trust the government give me useful information. They've been telling us how to avoid heart disease for 50 years.
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  • foobar1foobar1 235 replies2 threads Junior Member
    edited February 12
    The words "Starting Salary" are somewhat misleading. More accurate to say "Annual salary of students one year after graduation (Unadjusted for prior work experience or age)".

    It is interesting that this is one more data point showing that there are majors with relatively high and consistent salaries irrespective of the prestige of the college. (e.g., nursing and engineering)
    edited February 12
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  • firmament2xfirmament2x 678 replies6 threads Member
    I'm not sure what the big deal is . . . a Sonoma State nursing student has been trained for a high-demand profession; the Harvard history student will doubtlessly more often than not go for professional training in grad school.
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