A Bachelor’s Degree In Gettin’ Paid

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Derek Thompson tells you where to go to school to get rich:

A Bachelor of Science from Harvey Mudd College, the small California science and engineering school, is the most valuable college degree in America. Stanford’s computer science program pays off more than any single major in the country. For the best dollar-for-dollar investment, nothing beats the University of Virginia. As those three (all true) facts illustrate, there are many ways to answer the question What’s the most valuable college education in the country? Every year PayScale, the largest private tracker of U.S. salaries, tries to answer the question. This year they released their findings in an elegant site that you can play with here. They also shared their hard data with The Atlantic, which we used to do some further calculations.

Jordan Weissmann has the worst buys:

The site finds almost two-dozen schools where the average graduate – not dropouts, mind you, but students who finish their degree – will probably lose money on their educations, because their earning power won’t increase enough to justify the cost of tuition. To be blunt, these schools make students poorer. And we’re talking about traditional colleges, not nefarious for-profits.

Ben Cosman notes that the highest-ROI schools aren’t exactly easy to get into:

Harvey Mudd, the school with the highest ROI overall, admits just 19 percent of applicants, according to College Board. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (which needs no introduction), accepts only 8 percent. Stanford’s microscopic acceptance rate is 6 percent. The public schools are slightly better – Cal-Berkley has an 18 percent acceptance rate, and the top two, Colorado School of Mines and Georgia Tech, have 36 and 41 percent acceptance rates respectively. Admissions data isn’t readily available for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (we have a feeling only a very specific group of students is applying there, anyway), but it’s definitely Missouri University of Science and Technology that’s the easiest to get into, admitting more than 80 percent of applicants. Of course, keeping enrollment numbers tight also ensures good outcomes on the other end. When everyone of your students is almost guaranteed a good career, there’s fewer rotten apples to drag down the average.

Meanwhile, Alexander Aciman wants his alma mater – the University of Chicago, ranked 154 on Payscale’s ROI list – to stop begging him for money already:

The email spam and inconvenient phone calls aren’t the problem. It is the fundamental unseemliness of universities’ relentless solicitation of donations from recent alumni in a country where the current balance of outstanding student loans is 1/15 of the nation’s entire GDP. More than half of recent graduates at the time I finished school in 2012 were unemployed or underemployed, and many more were mal-employed – working in fields other than those offered by their majors. Universities must realize that many of us cannot spare the donation required to get a mug with our class year on it. Just a few weeks ago Harvard received the largest donation in the college’s history, but recent Harvard grads are nevertheless still getting requests. Donations from recent graduates can’t possibly account for more than a fraction of a school’s endowment – so why do they pursue them so tenaciously?