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Comparing Salaries for Graduates from Different Colleges

people throwing moneyIf you live in Colorado and/or are planning to go to college in the state, you might want to know where graduates with the highest starting salaries attended school.  Well, you’re in luck, because the Denver Post recently published an article on this very subject.  The newspaper reported the results of a study conducted by the Colorado Department of Higher Education in conjunction with a company called College Measures.  The study examined the average starting salaries of nearly 62,000 graduates from the state’s two- and four-year colleges.  It included all of Colorado’s public colleges, as well as three private ones: the University of Denver, Regis University, and Colorado Christian University.

According to the study, the average starting salary for four-year college graduates in Colorado was $38,860.  The lowest starting salary was $32,539 for graduates of Adams State College, while the highest was $56,671 for graduates of Colorado School of Mines.  Statistics like these need to be taken with a grain of salt, however.  Of course School of Mines grads’ salaries are high — the school only offers majors in applied sciences and engineering, and jobs in these fields tend to pay very well.

Unfortunately, Adams State grads also had the highest debt to first-year earnings ratio in the state.  An executive from the college defended Adams State by saying that 60 percent of its students receive a Pell Grant — a grant from the federal government that’s awarded to low-income students.  Thus, Adams State students probably incur more debt because they and their families have to borrow more money than students at other colleges.

Additionally, of the four colleges whose graduates had the lowest starting salaries, three are located in “remote towns” (a term used in the study).  Graduates who stay in those areas may have more difficulty finding a job in their field and are unlikely to make as much money as people in a metropolitan area like Denver.  The study only includes college graduates who stayed in Colorado; if you’re interested in going to college here and then working elsewhere, the data may not be of much use.  Finally, it’s important to note that starting salaries may not be indicative of how much graduates will make over the course of their careers, and prospective students should consider this when trying to determine the value of a degree from a particular college.

Some of the study’s results were surprising.  For example, students who graduated from two-year colleges with associate’s degrees in applied sciences earned almost $7,000 more per year than students who graduated from four-year colleges with bachelor’s degrees (not with any specific major).

Students who earned a business administration degree at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) had an average starting salary of $43,518, while students who graduated from Regis University with the same degree had an average starting salary of $57,120.  Tuition at Regis for the 2012-2013 school year was $31,200 (this does not include fees, room and board, books, or personal expenses), whereas tuition at UCD was $6,384 for Colorado residents and $19,896 for non-residents.  Therefore, although Regis costs a great deal more than UCD, data like this suggest the additional cost is worth it, especially if you’re an out-of-state student who wants to study business.

Although this study certainly has shortcomings, the data it provides is still useful.  Students (and parents) can go to collegemeasures.org to see the study’s more detailed results, including average starting salaries by major for graduates from different colleges.  Comparing salaries by major and school is more helpful than simply comparing the salary of a School of Mines graduate with a graduate from a more comprehensive college.

If you don’t live in Colorado and/or aren’t planning to attend college here, there may be information like this for the state you’re interested in.  Ten states have or will report this type of data, and a recent bill introduced in Congress would require every state to do so.  See this article for more information.

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