Graduates of elite colleges don’t necessarily earn more

Posted on September 9th, 2013

Many students and parents assume that attending an elite, well-known university is the key to a great career and future financial success. But that’s not always the case.

A recent study found that graduates of regional and second-tier colleges, on average, earn about the same as those who go to prestigious flagship universities. And surprisingly, it also concludes that students with associate’s degrees often out-earn bachelor’s degree-holders.

Credit: American Institutes for Research

The study looked at first-year earnings of graduates in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Check out the chart to the left to see how graduates compared.

We’ve written before about whether prestige really matters in choosing a college and whether it’s worth paying extra for a degree from an expensive, elite university. This study appears to back up our conclusion that college prestige is not as meaningful as other factors, such as graduation rates, college value, and overall academic quality.

There are often intangible benefits of attending elite universities, but it’s possible to obtain a quality education at a lesser-known college as well. And, well-qualified students are often rewarded with significant scholarships and financial aid awards from second-tier schools.

If cost is a consideration (as it is for most students and families), it’s important to carefully consider all of your options when choosing a college. You may find that a school you never considered turns out to be a great fit–and provides you with a significant scholarship that will help you avoid the nightmare of student debt.

Check out our tips on affording college, and feel free to reach out to us to learn how we can help you narrow down your college search to schools that offer a quality education at an affordable price.

Category: Choosing a College

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