Tuition vs. Salaries: “Trust us, It’s Worth It”

Some California public colleges are now eager to publicize how much their schools are “worth.” According to a piece by Lisa Krieger in the San Jose Mercury News:

What’s a degree worth? It’s no longer measured by the number of days devoted to Milton, Marxism and margaritas. New data show that the midcareer median salary of a San Jose State University graduate is $92,900 — 21 times the current $4,440 investment for annual tuition.

“Families want to see the rate of return on their investment,” said King Alexander, president of Cal State Long Beach, who with Cal State Chancellor Charles Reed is leading the campaign to measure a college degree like a mutual fund, IRA or 401(k).

Not every school is so eager to play this game. Krieger reports that the University of California schools and Stanford aren’t interested in talking about the median career salaries of their graduates. Though for the record a Berkeley graduate’s median mid-career salary is $109,000 a year and Stanford’s median is $119,000.

“Educators have always said: ‘Trust us, it’s worth it.’ Now we can say ‘Here’s the data — make up your own mind.’ We think it shows that we’re a great bargain,” said Alexander.

Eventual salary might be an important thing to consider, but it’s probably best to avoid language like “We think it shows that we’re a great bargain.”

Cal State is much less of a bargain than it used to be. The CSU governing board recently decided that students next year will pay 15 percent higher tuition than they do now. Do graduates make 15 percent more money?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer