Going to Yale just might pay off.
According to data released by the Department of Education this weekend, Yale and other Ivy League graduates earn twice as much, on average, than alumni from other universities. While the national average salary 10 years after enrollment for graduates who had been on federal financial aid is $34,000, comparable Yale graduates take home a median salary of $66,000.
Still, the study found that other Ivy League schools came with even greater monetary benefits — Yale ranked second-to-last in the Ivy League for alumni salaries. Harvard led the list, with comparable graduates earning a median salary of $87,200 10 years after graduation. The University of Pennsylvania and Princeton were the next highest-paying.
Several students and professors said they were surprised by this finding, while others noted the complex issues underlying the findings. These issues ranged from the variety of each school’s major offerings to the fact that the numbers only encompass students receiving federal aid.
“This finding [that Yalies rank second-lowest] surprised me to some degree,” economics professor Joseph Altonji ’75 said. “Part of the explanation probably lies in differences across the Ivy League schools in what students choose to major in, and in the occupations they wish to pursue.”
Robert Kelchen, assistant professor in the Department of Education Leadership, Management and Policy at Seton Hall University, added that the cause may be the particularly diverse range of majors pursued at Yale. Some professors interviewed similarly said the data should be further divided by majors or job sectors in order to get a clearer sense of how the different schools match up.
Economics professor Michael Peters said there is evidence that there are “huge” differences in the returns across the majors, adding that computer science or engineering majors get paid more on average than liberal arts majors.
“My hunch is that there are strong differences across the different Ivy League [schools],” he said. “To ‘rank’ the Ivies it might be better to compare wages across schools by major.”
Sherry Lee ’18 also said it would be more useful to separate the statistics by major, as Yale emphasizes the liberal arts more than its peers. Moreover, Lee questioned the time frame of the study, saying that 10 years does not seem like an adequate bracket to see how successful alumni are.
Director of Education Studies Lizzy Carroll said different schools may have an impact on their graduates’ career choices. She cited the education sector’s popularity among Yalies — the sector was the second-most popular destination for the class of 2014, after financial services — as an example.
“Education is a far less lucrative field, so the large numbers of Yale students pursuing it probably skews the wages data down,” she said.
Still, both Kelchen and Director of Financial Aid Caesar Storlazzi emphasized the fact that the data only applies to students receiving funding from the government.
“The information is based on federal aid recipients, so it does not include information on those students at Yale who only receive institutional or outside aid,” Storlazzi said.
But political science professor James Sleeper ’69 posited that the findings are evidence of the University’s “highly communal and humanistic orientation.” Yale has a long history of students graduating and dedicating themselves to building up the republic, Sleeper said, as opposed to simply accumulating wealth.
“One of the greatest prides of Yale, as a graduate and now as a teacher here, is that so many people I know went into nitty-gritty efforts in order to build civil society and to make it stronger,” Sleeper said.
Carroll said each school can send a different message about the value of public service — which will inevitably impact the number of students who pursue it after graduating.
Sleeper, who taught at Harvard for three years as a graduate student, described Harvard’s and Yale’s cultures as vastly different, noting that so many Harvard students enter the university knowing very little about finance and corporate law, but end up entering both fields at a staggering rate post-graduation.
“I think Harvard is really struggling with this problem — even more than Yale,” Sleeper added.