Earn more by attending these colleges

It is not what you know, but who you know.

Surely you have heard that phrase once or twice before and maybe you have anecdotes that would support the meaning of the phrase. Speaking from personal experience, I am certain that my first job out of college was obtained not only because I was qualified but because one of the executives used to work for my father.

Could this same theory apply to the college that you attend and the salary that you can earn? There is no question that certain colleges and universities provide a distinct name-recognition value that can open doors for graduates.

Schools that provide the highest salary potential

In a recap of a recent Payscale.com salary report, Yahoo! Finance listed the top eight schools as ranked by mid-career median salaries. It should come as no surprise that these schools also come with a hefty price tag for their annual tuition. Here is a breakdown of the schools along with the mid-career median salary and the annual tuition:

  • Harvey Mudd College :: $126,000 salary :: $40,390 tuition
  • Princeton University :: $123,000 salary :: $36,640 tuition
  • Dartmouth College :: $123,000 salary :: $40,437 tuition
  • Harvard University :: $121,000 salary :: $38,416 tuition
  • California Institute of Technology (CalTech) :: $120,000 salary :: $36,282 tuition
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) :: $119,000 salary :: $39,212 tuition
  • Stanford University :: $119,000 salary :: $39,201 tuition
  • Colgate University :: $119,000 salary :: $41,870 tuition

Is there real value?

The above mentioned schools are indicated to provide the most valuable educations, but what is the cost of that value? With each school carrying an annual tuition in the neighborhood of $40,000 per year, one is paying quite a bit for that perceived value.

As I have mentioned before, one financial decision that I would make differently is to attend the local state university as opposed to a private university. The cost savings in tuition would have meant less in student loans as well as less burden on my parents. In my heart of hearts, I truly believe that my earning potential would not have been limited had I attended the local state school.

Awhile back there was an article on CNNMoney.com that provided three ways to save $400,000 and guess what was included among those three ways – yep, college costs. That article appears to support my belief that I would be where I am today regardless of the university that I attended.

Research shows that students with similar academic abilities earn the same whether they attend top schools or less selective ones.

A better judge of value

Rather than simply look at the mid-career median salaries to determine what schools offer the most valuable education, one might want to consider the overall cost of tuition compared to the earning potential. Would you rather spend $160,000 for an education with a starting salary of $60,000 or $40,000 for an education with a starting salary of $35,000?

These numbers are completely arbitrary but demonstrate that attending one of the prestigious universities may put you in a considerable hole financially that the slightly higher earning potential will have diminished returns.

As a firm believer in the fact that the individual determines their own earning potential based on their work ethic and ability, I would think twice before attending one of the schools mentioned above simply to benefit from the potential boost in pay.

What are your thoughts on how your school influences your salary?

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3 Responses

  1. Steve Sildon says:

    The best piece of advice for those considering an expensive 4-year undergraduate school is to take your first 2 years at a reputable local junior college and then transfer to the higher priced undergraduate program. You’ll save 50-100K in tuition and you’ll get the diploma that you want from the reputable school. Those that go to junior college for the first 2 years get the same diploma from that school as those who attend for the full 4 years.

    • derek says:

      Steve, that is a great point. However, one additional tip is to try and do as much due diligence as possible to confirm the credits earned at the junior college will transfer in equal credits to the university of your choice. Not all schools treat credits from another school, particularly junior colleges, equally.

      Your advice is a great way to save money, you just need to do your research to avoid any issues with transferring credits.

      • Steve Sildon says:

        You absolutely have to confirm that your credits are transferrable to the specific 4 year institution that you’re targeting, so that’s very important. Many times local junior colleges will have programs that cater to the local area 4 year institution. That’s how my wife got into UC – Santa Barbara. She was an, eh-hum, average student (sorry honey, just keeping it real) but her transfer got “fast-tracked” by going to the local JUCO, Santa Barbara Community College. Regardless, still a great way to get into a great 4-year school through the side door without having to pay full freight.

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