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You could gain more from a public college than an ivy league

Economic value added to graduates' lives is higher at public colleges in the US than Ivy League universities, according to a non-profit organisation.

  • Rankings for Students
Carly Minsky's avatar

Carly Minsky

October 27 2015
Ladders of success


The economic value added to students’ lives by attending specific US colleges has been calculated for a non-profit organisation’s university ranking system.

Educate to Career (ETC), a non-profit that provides data resources relating to education and career outcomes, used a variety of metrics to measure the improvement in earnings and employability of graduates against the total cost of their education.

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came out on top of the 2015 rankings. The top 10 otherwise features two Californian universities, two institutions in Virginia, and other universities spread across the country.

- Full table of top universities in the United States

The score for “economic value added” takes into account the average salaries of recent graduates, the proportion of graduates employed within one year of graduation, the proportion of graduates employed in a field related to their studies and other qualities that measure educational and economic success.

Public state colleges generally perform well by these measures.

In a set of “frequently asked questions” released last week, ETC explained that state institutions offer excellent value for money, given their high-quality education and relatively low fees.

It said: “Academic standards are uniformly high in most state schools, and a relatively high percentage of their graduates enter the workforce successfully, with meaningful occupations and high relative salaries.

“Additionally, graduates from these state schools typically have low debt loads, which translate ultimately to low loan default rates.”

Interestingly, the eight Ivy League schools do not perform so well with respect to adding economic value to students’ lives.

The highest ranked Ivy is Harvard, in position 51. But the average rank between all eight prestigious institutions is 206.

According to Educate to Career, these results show that the best students do not generally improve their potential by attending the most competitive universities.

It said: “The ‘elite’ schools typically admit only students with the highest SAT scores. Very high achieving students tend to perform well in the workforce, regardless of where they attend college and even if they do not attend college.

“Our data show that many elite schools in the US are more adept at selecting winners than they are in creating winners.”

Nine of the top 20 in ETC's ranking also feature in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16. UC Berkeley and UCLA are both ranked within the best 20 universities in the world, while the top institution for Economic Value Added - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - is one of the best 100 universities in the world.

Rank College/University ETC Score City State
1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 99.8 Chapel Hill NC
2 University of California, Irvine 97 Irvine CA
3 University of Virginia, Main Campus 96.8 Charlottesville VA
4 William and Mary 96.8 Williamsburg VA
5 Citadel Military College of South Carolina 95.6 Charleston SC
6 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 95.2 Ann Arbor MI
7 University of Florida 95.1 Gainesville FL
8 University of New Hampshire, Main Campus 95.1 Durham NH
9 University of Vermont 95 Burlington VT
10 University of California, Los Angeles 94.9 Los Angeles CA
11 James Madison University 94.8 Harrisonburg VA
12 Bob Jones University 94.7 Greenville SC
13 California State University, San Marcos 94.6 San Marcos CA
14 Berea College 94.6 Berea KY
15 The College of New Jersey 94.5 Ewing NJ
16 University of California, Merced 94.5 Merced CA
17 California State University, Los Angeles 94.2 Los Angeles CA
18 Saint Johns University 94.1 Collegeville MN
19 University of California, Berkeley 94.1 Berkeley CA
20    University of Connecticut 94 Storrs CT

See the full table here.

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