March Madness Graduate Salaries: Do Private or Public Schools Win?

March Madness has arrived, and with it all of the number crunching, predicting and name calling that college basketball fans can muster. And, the school comparisons go beyond the court. While everyone knows that Duke is the number one seed for the tournament, did you know its graduates are also ranked number one for earning a hefty paycheck after graduation?

Every year PayScale creates a March Madness Predictions bracket where we line up the schools by the average income of their graduates between five to 15 years post graduation. We compare their annual total cash compensation, which includes the base salary or wage, bonus, profit sharing, commission, and tips that these employees earn in a year at one job. The number does not include equity compensation (e.g., stock options) or non-cash benefits (e.g., health insurance).

Stanford ($113,000) won last year, with Notre Dame ($99,100) coming in fairly distant second. This year, Stanford didn’t make it to the big dance and Notre Dame faced the eventual winner, Duke, and dropped out in the third round. The fat wallet four for 2010 are:

  1. Duke $104,000
  2. Georgetown $95,100
  3. Cornell $93,300
  4. Vanderbilt $85,800

It’s interesting see the chart as a comparison of public versus private school payoff. Overall, private school graduates earn more. There is no question about it. Just look at the final four. And, where do most of the public schools get cut? In the second round.

In the second round, there are 15 private schools and 17 public schools. A fairly even split. But, in the Salary 16 (third round) there are 10 private schools versus six public. That’s a drop from 53 percent to 38 percent total for the public schools.  Then, by the top earning eight only one public school remains, the University of Washington with an average salary of $74,300.

Does this data make a case for a private school education being worth the high tuition costs? Maybe. On the pro-private school side, if you had to choose between UNLV and Duke, you’re looking at earning $46,000 more a year on average with a Duke degree. That amount would quickly make up for the tuition difference in few years. But, if you look at UC Berkeley, where graduates make $92,000 per year at fraction of Duke's tuition cost, you’ve got to consider that public school option seriously.

What can you decide where to spend your tuition dollars efficiently? Research the tuition numbers at your college of choice, then check out PayScale’s College Salary Report where we tell you which school's graduates earn the big bucks and which jobs they most often pursue. Then you can see if you’re going to be a Fighting Irishman or Kentucky Wildcat.

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