September 26, 2012
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Ranking colleges by payback vs. tuition. “Among many folks who fixate on big-name northeastern liberal-arts schools, the Georgia Institute of Technology flies under the reputational radar. Even its president, G.P. Peterson, goes by the unassuming, guy-next-door nickname of ‘Bud.’ But based on our Payback Score, the school deserves a higher profile — and some bragging rights. After all, it’s offering the best academic deal in America. . . . All of Georgia Tech’s neighbors at the top of the heap are also public universities; indeed, state schools have historically dominated our Payback Scorecard, and this year, they hold the top 17 slots. At midcareer, our public school graduates earn less in absolute dollars than their private-college counterparts, but as a proportion of their tuition, they’re pulling down 58% more than Ivy grads, and 85% more than alumni of non-Ivy private schools. For many middle- and upper-middle income families, that translates into a lighter economic burden — all the more important in an economy where salaries for college grads overall have been stagnant.”
This is a useful metric, but remember that those average salaries are averages. You want to prepare for the possibility that the market will shift, or you won’t do as well as you expect. My main advice — don’t take out a lot of loans, even to go to Georgia Tech. I think there’s a little bit of a STEM bubble going on right now. It’s not bad to study STEM subjects, but don’t get carried away. What looks good now might not in four or five years, but if you borrow, the debt will still be there.