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November 7, 2013

State report compares value of college degrees

Associate holders earning more in first year, but discrepancy changes over time.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana higher education officials have long been promoting the value of a college degree, but a new report shows some degrees are much more valuable than others.

According to the “Return on Investment” report issued Wednesday by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education, Indiana students who’ve earned an associate degree at a two-year college are averaging higher salaries in their first year of employment than graduates of the state’s four-year public universities.

That salary discrepancy changes over time, but much more so for some degrees than others.

Graduates with a four-year engineering degree from Purdue University, for example, have an average salary of just over $65,000 within five years of leaving school — earning about $28,000 more than a Purdue grad with a history degree. And the report shows that while most of those engineering grads go on to work in their field of study, one of top fields of employment for those history majors is in the restaurant industry.

The detailed report includes information on tuition costs, student debt load, graduate salaries by degree and the top three fields of employment by degree, for every public two-year and four-year institution in Indiana. The data in the report was pulled from several sources that track Indiana students who remain in the state after college.

“We want to be unequivocal in our message that a college degree is valuable, and more valuable than ever,” said Jason Bearce, associate commissioner for strategic communications and initiatives. “But it’s become increasingly clear that the return on investment that people get depends greatly on the choices they make and what they want to come out it.”

The ROI report is the latest in a series of ongoing efforts initiated by Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers to provide more information to Hoosier students and their families about the costs and benefits of a college education.

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