Is an Ivy League education worth it? Statistically, it might be–depending on what statistics we’re talking about, and how those numbers are used. A study by PayScale, described on the New York Times Economix Blog, indicates that graduates of some elite colleges make more than peers from other colleges.
I spend a lot of time explaining that each individual is not a statistic. Whether or not they earn a lot of money depends on what their major is, the skills they learn, the professions they pursue, and their general attitudes about life and money. Statistics are interesting, but they are not predictors of any one individual’s salary.
Case in point: graduates of my alma mater, Dartmouth College, have the highest median mid-career salary: $129,000 annually. Does this mean that all the folks I saw at my 25th reunion last month were making that? No! A median is a median. Half the alumni make less than that amount, half make more.
It’s nice to know that my classmates do better, statistically, than our peers who graduated from other universities. But this knowledge does not put money in my pocket. If I want to make the median or more, I can’t just rest on my diploma. I still have to work for it.
So before you invest all that money in an elite college, remember that there are plenty of folks who went to other colleges who make well above the median of their alma maters, and who make far more than the median among Dartmouth graduates.
Statistics are statistics. But they are not predictors of an individual’s financial success.