Home > .edu, Higher Education > PayScale.com’s [Bogus] College Salary Report

PayScale.com’s [Bogus] College Salary Report

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Freelancers or entrepreneurs are excluded:  “Self-employed, project-based, and contract employees are not included.” Sorry Stanford.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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