Which College—and Which Major—Will Make You Richest? – Derek Thompson – The Atlantic

Which College—and Which Major—Will Make You Richest?

A new study finds that nine of the 10 most lucrative degrees in America are in computer science programs at elite colleges—and Harvey Mudd runs away with the lead. A Bachelor of Science from Harvey Mudd College, the small California science and engineering school, is the most valuable college degree in America. Stanford’s computer science program pays off more than any single major in the country. For the best dollar-for-dollar investment, nothing beats the University of Virginia. As those three (all true) facts illustrate, there are many ways to answer the question What’s the most valuable college education in the country? Every year PayScale, the largest private tracker of U.S. salaries, tries to answer the question. This year they released their findings in an elegant site that you can play with here. They also shared their hard data with The Atlantic, which we used to do some further calculations. Before the candy, some methodological veggies. The challenge of putting together any study like this is that it’s devilishly difficult to measure the cost and benefit of college. Start with cost, which is the time and money it takes to finish school. Colleges advertise their sticker price, but about half the students at many elite colleges get grants. Without financial aid, four years at Stanford University costs $236,000, making it one of the 10 most expensive colleges in America. But the “weighted net cost,” factoring in grant aid and time to graduation, of going to Stanford is more like $74,000. For my purposes, I’m interested in net cost, not sticker price. And what about benefit? PayScale has two measures that are useful. First it calculates the 20-year college premium using self-reported income surveys. This tells you the amount of money a college grad will make in two decades above and beyond what she would have made if she didn’t attend college. For example, if Derek University costs $100,000 and my graduates earn $1 million extra over the next 20 years, my net return is $900,000. PayScale also measures “annualized ROI,” which helps us see the dollar-for-dollar benefit of certain schools and programs. With all that methodology out of the way, we can get to the fun stuff. Here’s the first big fat list: The ten schools with the highest-earning graduates over the next 20 years. By this measure, Harvey Mudd is America’s one million-dollar college. Read more here.

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