It depends what you study, not where – A new report from PayScale, a research firm, calculates the returns to a college degree. Its authors compare the career earnings of graduates with the present-day cost of a degree at their alma maters, net of financial aid. College is usually worth it, but not always, it transpires. And what you study matters far more than where you study it.
Engineers and computer scientists do best, earning an impressive 20-year annualised return of 12% on their college fees (the S&P 500 yielded just 7.8%). Engineering graduates from run-of-the-mill colleges do only slightly worse than those from highly selective ones. Business and economics degrees also pay well, delivering a solid 8.7% average return. Courses in the arts or the humanities offer vast spiritual rewards, of course, but less impressive material ones. Some yield negative returns. An arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art had a hefty 20-year net negative return of $92,000, for example.