New Study: Ivy League Grads Earn Less Than Less Prestigious Colleges

A new study proves grads from America’s most prestigious colleges actually earn less than less fancy schools. Take that, Harvard.


October 7, 2015

Bad news for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

A new study from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program ranked colleges based on the economic outcomes for graduates – and not one Ivy League school made it in the top 10.

According to the study, schools with high completion rates and good financial aid are linked to better economic outcomes. Additionally, schools with lots of students in STEM majors like computer science and engineering also are more likely to earn more in salary.

In other words, students from schools that promote graduation and the sciences make more money.

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To come up with their rankings, Bookings measured three things: mid-career earning, occupational earning (whether or not they’re in a high-paying kind of career), and student loan repayment rates. Then, they compared to the baseline.

For mid-career earnings, Bookings looked at students who were expected to earn more based on ACT/SAT scores, family income, race, gender, and a few other factors. Then they compared the predicted earning to a similar school’s actually earnings. The difference in salary was the value added by the college.

Here are the top four-year schools based on mid-career earnings:

Interestingly, Jonathan Rothwell, one of the authors of the study, said that “STEM is the biggest measurable factor on average across all the institutional factors. The only surprising thing is that it works even if you don’t go to an elite school. You don’t necessarily have to go to Caltech or MIT and major in computer science there. Even if you go to community college, you’ll see an earnings premium.”

Shockingly, not one Ivy League school made it on the list. Granted, there are a few prestigious schools like MIT and CalTech, it’s amazing how many relative unknown schools are on the list.

For example, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology had mid-career earnings of $114,100, compare to MIT’s $128,800. Not bad.

Even more interesting is that odd amount of mid-tier liberal arts schools that are on the list like Colgate University and Carleton College.

As Fast Company reports, Rothwell explained that “They get there through what we call this X Factor. It’s sort of hard to break it down because it’s kind of inherently unmeasurable, kind of like the dark matter of colleges. You can observe some energy affecting student performance in terms of higher earnings, better student occupations, and loan repayment rates”

Not interested in a four-year college? Here are the two-year schools:

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As Rothwell explain, students are want to predict their future earnings are better off looking at these rankings rather than traditional college rankings.

“Most of their power in predicting future earnings is related to test scores of students going into [university]. Once you control for that, they don’t tell you much,” says Rothwell. “For two fairly selective schools with similar admission rates, the rankings in U.S. News and World Report, Money, or Forbes, don’t provide any extra information on economic success.”

Click here to see the entire study and rankings.

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