PayScale.com has returned with its “College Salary Report,” which purports to rank higher education institutions based on the salaries their graduates make after college.
In addition to further de-valuing higher education by helping our culture reduce it to a horse race for the almighty dollar, they do so with really sloppy methodology. Time Magazine weighed in on the problems in the figures, but I also found a number of problems with how they tabulate their results:
- They don’t appear to factor in the household income of a student BEFORE they go to college when considering what a graduate makes AFTER college. (If one has a wealthy family to bankroll one’s endeavors after college, that’s significant – as is the skewing of the population that attends certain universities based on the cost of their tuition).
- As PayScale.com concedes, “salary does not include equity (stock) compensation, which can be a significant portion of pay for some executive and high-tech jobs.” Sorry MIT.
- Freelancers or entrepreneurs are excluded: “Self-employed, project-based, and contract employees are not included.” Sorry Stanford.
- Anyone with an advanced degree (ie a master’s or doctorate) is excluded. For Dartmouth – that means 80 percent of their graduates don’t appear in this survey.
- The figures don’t take into account the cost of living in the areas where the graduates are working.
For these numbers to actually mean anything – they really need to take into account the above factors. Another aspect of the study that is problematic is how different the median starting salaries and median “mid-career” salaries are.
It would ALSO be a more valid measure if the rankings took into account how much a year of tuition is at each of the institutions, which gets to the heart of what they’re attempting to analyze here: what is the best investment for higher education. If a year at Harvard is around $50,000, and a year at Michigan State for an out-of-state student is $33,000 – how does that compare in the final product if the mid-career median salary for Harvard is $126,000 and $82,500 at MSU?
Dave Murray at the Grand Rapids Press picked out the colleges from the region to see where they rank.