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Best Colleges for Earning the Big Bucks

The cost of college is skyrocketing and graduates risk being saddled with more debt than ever. What’s a smart solution when even state schools aren’t cheap? Earn more after you graduate.

Last week PayScale debuted its 2009-10 College Salary Report, which lists best schools for starting and mid-career salaries by regions of the country, party reputation, educational focus and more. It also sorts out the most lucrative majors. Wondering if this information is important? Just check the news.

Within days of the 2009-10 College Salary Package’s debut, multiple articles were written in major newspapers describing tuition hikes for undergraduate students. A Detroit News article, “Tuition Hike Plan Alarms OU Students,” describes a tuition increase of 11 percent in the coming year at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan – 11 percent! Many students already work a job, or two, according to the article, and aren’t sure how to make up for higher costs.

If you or someone you know is looking at schools, don’t just assume that Harvard, Stanford, Yale and their Ivy League counterparts are the best colleges for bringing home the bacon. While they tend to produce high lifelong earnings, they are not the only schools to consider. Other colleges’ earning power may surprise you.

See highlights from the PayScale’s 2009-10 College Salary Report below:

  • Dartmouth College graduates have the highest mid-career salary for the second year in a row, but their median salary declined from last year.

  • Loma Linda University graduates have the highest starting salary, in part because of strong programs in nursing, dental and allied health disciplines.

  • Engineering schools  are the best bets for the highest starting pay; they occupy eight of the top 10 spots on this list.

  • Ivy League schools are the best bets for the highest mid-career pay, with five of the top 10 spots on this list.

  • Graduates of small liberal arts colleges experience the largest increase from starting to mid-career salary; these schools occupy nine of the top 10 spots on this list.

  • Franklin and Marshall College graduates have the greatest spread in mid-career earnings; the top 25% of the school’s graduates earn more than 2.6 times the earnings of the bottom 25%.


We’ll end with a quote from PayScale’s resident smarty-pants, Al Lee, Ph.D., director of qualitative analysis. He says:

 “Our 2009 report shows that a degree from the right college or university in the right major can have huge and lasting benefits, from the start of a career to the mid-point. This is especially important to remember today, when the economic fundamentals are so weak and job prospects are so uncertain. The data we’ve generated helps explain why some people are able to sustain and increase income over the long term, while others are not.”


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