Return on College Investment via BusinessWeek

Stuffed animal reading the business section
Is the investment worth it?

Businessweek has an interesting article on the return on investment for college. The short answer is “yes,” a college degree is worth the investment. This year’s ranking is a little different because it takes into account graduation rates and actual cost of attendance given financial aid, grants, and merit aid. Of course, there are all sorts of issues with the methodology which you should be aware of such as lack of distinction between an engineering degree and an English degree and what percentage of the various types of graduates end up looking for job on the PayScale website. It probably shouldn’t be considered the last word in your college search.

But there is a cool little interactive graph called “Visualizing College ROI” that is worth playing with. I set the “Search by State” field to Texas and started looking at some of the combinations. Some schools are left off presumably because they didn’t have enough entries on the PayScale site to be included. These include St. Edwards, St. Marys, Our Lady of the Lake, Texas Lutheran, McMurry, and Austin College among others.

Hover over the various dots and you can see the names of the schools that are included. Rice, the state’s most selective private school which is known as engineering school, is the leading dot for ROI under all circumstances. The next leading dot is another school known for its engineering programs, Texas A&M. A&M is followed by UT Austin and SMU, both schools with strong engineering programs. Another engineering school, LeTourneau, shows up in the leading edge on some of the charts.

If you’re considering an engineering career, the rankings and information may be helpful in looking for schools to apply to. For history majors, not so much. However, I think there is great value in looking for differences in similarly situated dots along the x or y axis. For example, look at all the dots that cluster on an axis of “net cost of degree” around $40,000 and then look at the differences in the various ROI options. Again, you can probably explain the greatest differences in terms of engineering programs but you’ll find interesting differences within the engineering group and the not-so-much engineering group.

Ultimately, this is an exercise in recognizing differences in similarly situated schools and then deciding if those differences are relevant to your college search.

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