Monday, October 25, 2010

Study This, Earn That

Originally Posted on

Learn why your salary is a matter of degrees

By Chris Kyle

The college diplomas of an engineering and music major look nearly identical.

Their bank accounts at the mid-career mark... not so much.

Not long after the ink dries on their degrees, a petroleum engineer will make $100,000 more per year than a music major, according to mid-career salary statistics from Payscale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report.

For those curious about the average pay that comes with different bachelor's degrees, we count down some of the most popular degrees from highest to lowest. The results may surprise you...

Study Finance, Earn $91,500

While it may pale in comparison to petroleum engineers, who earn a whopping $157,000, finance graduates with a bachelor's degree still do quite well, earning an average mid-career salary of $91,500. Typical finance careers include financial planners, bankers, and stockbrokers.

Study Information Technology (IT), Earn $79,300

Information technology gave birth to today's paperless business world, making an IT bachelor's degree valuable in every profession imaginable, from the computer industry to health care and beyond. According to Payscale's 2010-2011 report, IT grads make nearly $80,000 mid-career.

Study Accounting, Earn $77,500

Forget about Mandarin, Spanish, or even English. The most important language in the business world is accounting. According to Payscale, those with a bachelor's degree in accounting have an average salary of $77,500 mid-career. It's also a smart choice for those seeking an associate's degree since many accountants enter the workforce with only two years of training.

Study Marketing, Earn $77,300

Knowing how to market a product to the masses is a skill that will always be in demand. Grads with a bachelor's degree in marketing get paid handsomely for their efforts, averaging at $77,300 per year mid-career. For even quicker training, you can earn a marketing associate's degree.

Study Business, Earn $70,600

While business administration remains one of the most popular bachelor's degrees, Payscale broke down undergraduate business degrees into two categories: international business and business. Today's global economy gives a slight edge to international business majors, who average at $73,700 mid-career, just ahead of the $70,600 in average salary for business majors.

Study Literature, Earn $65,700

Sure, you will strengthen your reading and writing skills by studying literature. But reading great books can also deepen your ability to understand the human condition. Literature majors often move on to study law or work in communications or marketing as writers and editors.

Study Human Resources (HR), Earn $61,900

Recruiting and retaining the best and brightest employees is an HR professional's goal. By gaining a bachelor's in human resources, you can position yourself for a mid-career salary of nearly $62,000 by learning how to best use your people skills in all kinds of workplace environments.

Study Criminal Justice, Earn $58,000

Lawyers and paralegals aren't the only ones who study laws and how to apply them. Everyone from federal agents and police officers to private investigators can benefit from studying criminal justice. A mid-career salary of $58,000 is the norm for those with a bachelor's degree.

*All salary data is based upon mid-career averages of those with a bachelor's degree and comes from Payscale's 2010-2011 College Salary Report.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Report: College dropouts cost taxpayers billions

By: Eric Gorski

Original Source: at

Dropping out of college after a year can mean lost time, burdensome debt and an uncertain future for students.

Now there's an estimate of what it costs taxpayers. And it runs in the billions.

States appropriated almost $6.2 billion for four-year colleges and universities between 2003 and 2008 to help pay for the education of students who did not return for year two, a report released Monday says.

In addition, the federal government spent $1.5 billion and states spent $1.4 billion on grants for students who didn't start their sophomore years, according to "Finishing the First Lap: The Cost of First-Year Student Attrition in America's Four-Year Colleges and Universities."

The dollar figures, based on government data and gathered by the nonprofit American Institutes for Research, are meant to put an economic exclamation point on the argument that college completion rates need improvement.

But the findings also could give ammunition to critics who say too many students are attending four-year schools — and that pushing them to finish wastes even more taxpayer money.

The Obama administration, private foundations and others are driving a shift from focusing mostly on making college more accessible to getting more students through with a diploma or certificate.

Mark Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research and former commissioner of the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, said the report's goal is to spotlight the costs of losing students after year one, the most common exit door in college.

"We're all about college completion right now, and I agree 100 percent with the college completion agenda and we need a better-educated adult population and workforce," Schneider said.

The report takes into account spending on average per-student state appropriations, state grants and federal grants, such as Pell grants for low-income students, then reaches its cost conclusions based on student retention rates.

The cost of educating students who drop out after one year account for between 2 to 8 percent of states' total higher education appropriations, Schneider said. He said the report emphasizes state spending because states provide most higher education money and hold the most regulatory sway over institutions and can drive change.

Ohio, for example, has moved toward using course and degree completion rates in determining how much money goes to its public colleges and universities instead of solely using enrollment figures.

"We recognize an institution is not going to be perfect on graduation and completion rates," said Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. "But at the same time, we know they can do better than they're doing. And if you place the financial rewards around completion, then you will motivate that."

The AIR report draws from Department of Education data, which Schneider concedes does not provide a full picture.

The figures track whether new full-time students at 1,521 public and private colleges and universities return for year two at the same institution. It doesn't include part-timers, transfers or students who come back later and graduate.

The actual cost to taxpayers may run two to three times higher given those factors and others, including the societal cost of income lost during dropouts' year in college, said Richard Vedder, an Ohio University economics professor. And tying state appropriations to student performance could just cause colleges to lower their standards, he said.

Robert Lerman, an American University economics professor who, like Vedder, questions promoting college for all, said the report fleshes out the reality of high dropout rates. But he said it could just as easily be used to argue that less-prepared, less-motivated students are better off not going to college.

"Getting them to go a second year might waste even more money," Lerman said. "Who knows?"