Evaluating Liberal Arts Colleges by how much graduates make is antithetical to the concept of a liberal arts education in so many ways. But given the fact that 100 Liberal Arts Colleges now cost more than $50,000, I don’t care how much aid the students are receiving, families have every right to know what kind of pay-off the student can expect. This doesn’t mean that families don’t appreciate the value of a liberal arts education. It’s just recognition that there will bills and loans to repay after graduation.
I’ve already discussed the limitations of the Economist’s college rankings of median income here. So I’m going to skip that part and just focus on numbers as they relate to Liberal Arts Colleges. Just keep in mind, I don’t recommend using median earnings as the deciding factor in selecting a college but there are situations when it should be considered.
And let’s just get this out of the way, students at Liberal Arts Colleges had lower average earnings than those at Doctoral/Research Universities. The average 10 year median earnings of students at 270 Doctoral/Research Universities was $49,614 compared to $43,288 for 224 Liberal Arts Colleges.
Remember, these are averages and it’s important to keep perspective. After all, there are 91 Doctoral/Research Universities that have a lower median earnings after ten years than the overall average for Liberal Arts Colleges.
Then there is the issue of student qualifications. The Economist created its rankings by estimating what the median earnings should be after 10 years given test scores, Pell Grants, location, and other factors and then compared it to the actual earnings. The highest ranked schools had earnings above the expected amount given the school’s situation. This is how a school with a lower 10 year median earnings can rank higher than one with higher median earnings.
The following table lists all 50-50 schools classified as Liberal Arts Colleges-Arts and Sciences and the median 10 year earnings of students. Remember, these earnings are only for those who received federal aid and doesn’t account for the concentration of majors at each school. As usual, the 4 year rate is used for private schools and the 5 year for public.
50-50 Liberal Arts Colleges Ranked by Salaries
(Download PDF Version)