People believe that attending a top college impacts lifetime earnings. From Payscale, we see that yes, indeed, attending an Ivy League school can correlate with a certain range of starting pay.
What Are People Studying In the Ivies
But it’s not clear what they chose for their majors. STEM? Some, but not most. From the chart above, we see that Princeton clocks in at 48% STEM but most others are far below that, such as Harvard, which is awarding 19& of its graduates STEM degrees. What are people studying? Well - clearly, not STEM programs. What is going on? What could explain such variation? Is it the majors that people are choosing? How can they be earning so much?
STEM Majors Rule - Right?
Well, generally, people believe that STEM majors tend to lead to higher-paying jobs, which is substantiated with information such as this graph from The Economist - which mourns the state of the humanities!
Liberal Arts Majors Earn More???
However, a recent study of liberal arts colleges finds that the “median return on investment...is nearly $200,000 higher than the median for all colleges.“
OK but what do people study at a liberal arts college? What are “liberal arts”?
Liberal arts simply means the study of a wide variety of subjects, designed to encourage flexible thinking...not...with political orientation. The term 'arts' is actually derived from the Latin for art or skill (ars) - so it is actually a word for 'skill' and not solely 'art' in the way we typically associate the word 'art' with painting or music.
The Ivies Are Liberal Arts Colleges, Usually
The Ivies tend to embrace some liberal arts pedagogy - that means, no matter what your major, students must gain a high level of reading, writing, math, science, etc.
Harvard describes itself thusly:
As a liberal arts and sciences college nestled within a world-class research university, Harvard gives you both the freedom to shape your own course of study and the resources to see it through. So, what are you waiting for? Stake a claim and learn from those who challenge it. Ask a complex question and grow from the process of answering it. Master the subjects you love, but never forget to explore the unfamiliar terrain that lies just beyond your comfort zone.
DIY Major at Brown
Brown University is very proud of its Open Curriculum:
Brown’s distinctive approach asks much of students — as the architect of their own education, Brown students are responsible for their own intellectual and creative development. Most undergraduates sample courses in a range of subjects before diving into one of 80-plus academic concentrations for in-depth, focused study.
Yes, this means they trust accepted students enough to allow them to try out different majors, without any boundaries between various departments. This of course is not a luxury that all schools can offer but it provides food for thought. According to Payscale, Brown issues STEM degrees to a whopping 43% of its graduates.
Looking at the Ivies as an example of what makes for a desirable educational program is useful for understand how the most selective schools prepare college students for the world beyond. What to make of it all???? And, how do people survive in the real world?
Well...you might be surprised by the answers!!! Think about why you are considering certain colleges, and what you might expect to get after graduation.
Where Do Grads Earn the Most?
Now...close your eyes quickly...before you look, what names would you expect to find? Brand names? Or at least ones you would...recognize???
Are You Surprised???
Surely you have heard of MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Caltech. But....SUNY Maritime? US Naval Academy? Have you ever even considered studying things related to the military or the ocean...? Maybe not! Even if you are interested in the health sciences, medicine or other things related to human health, you might have never heard of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences!
Two Year Programs Might Be More Lucrative?
Going to the right associate’s degree program - two-years - can yield a higher starting pay than most other colleges! A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses describes a study which found that “registered nurses who graduated from several colleges in California: Graduates from Santa Rosa Junior College earned $90,000; Butte College, $87,000; Carrington College-Sacramento, $85,000; and Unitek College, $80,000.”
Role of Automation?
One more thought about liberal arts colleges - they may fare better over time, especially in the face of automation.
Liberal arts majors pull ahead because they have that preparation to tackle the complex, multi-faceted challenges of leadership, managing across many functional areas, or surviving dramatic shifts in job market needs...They are also under less threat of their job prospects declining due to automation, as the skills they bring to workplaces are not the skills that can be replaced by robots.
THE SECRET: You Need Objective Data
We’ve kept you in suspense! So here is the reality - you need to know what each school offers, in terms of its departments, programs, etc. Luckily for you, the U.S. government has created a handy online database so that you can look up all sorts of data related to colleges!
You can find extremely useful information, such as the average actual price tag for attending. For example, what might you expect to pay if accepted to Princeton? Uh...probably something like...buying a high-end car each year?
Nope! The average annual cost of attending Princeton...is less than $10K!!! Closer to the price of a used sedan!!!
Personal Priorities Guide College Lists
Here at Enlighteens Education, we are very mindful of all the various needs and factors affecting how families make their college lists together.
Knowing so many different things about a school such as the rate of graduation, the actual annual cost - those things will truly help families as they make college lists.
Depending on your personal priorities such as financial concerns, majors you find interesting, and even considerations such as ultimately choosing to attend a college closer to home because of the COVID19 experience - you can use solid objective data to make your decisions about where to apply. We leverage both objective information with everything important to one’s family to recommend colleges to our students, to create substantial and useful college lists that will yield serious and productive results.