News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 7, 2013

State report compares value of college degrees

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — At Indiana State University, someone who graduates in business/marketing makes $46,508 on average after five years, while an education major makes $38,674.

A graduate in social sciences earns $37,981, on average, after five years.

A college education pays off in terms of more job opportunities and higher earnings, state officials say. But some degree programs offer a better return on investment, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

The Return on Investment report is the latest in a series of ongoing efforts by the commission to provide more information to Hoosier students and their families about the costs and benefits of a college education.

The report includes information on college 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.

At ISU, the average salary of all students one year after graduation (for those who stay in Indiana) is $33,074. After five years, it is $41,717, and after 10 years, it is $50,826.

Statewide, the averages are $34,161 after one year; $44,730 after five years; and $58,944 after 10 years.

Also, ISU’s annual cost of college after financial aid is $11,183 ($11,091 statewide); the average debt upon graduation from ISU is $24,145 for those with college debt ($26,028 statewide), and 75 percent of students have debt at graduation (compared with 66 percent statewide).

Those incomes improve with advanced degrees.

The report provides average salary information for each public institution statewide, although ISU President Dan Bradley has reservations about the salary data.

“Breaking it down by institution implies to the student that what institution you attend determines your salary, and that is not accurate,” he said. “It depends on where you live.”

For example, for some of the health care fields, “whether you work in Terre Haute or Indianapolis makes an enormous difference,” he said.

Overall, he believes ISU students who graduate “get a very good return” in terms of better job and better pay opportunities.

Also, “The more education you have, the higher your salary is, and that’s pretty much independent of what your discipline is,” he said.

The concern is for those who don’t pursue a post-secondary education or those who fail to graduate from college, he said.

He does believe it’s important for those entering college to know which majors pay more, and those which pay less upon graduation.

“Students should know teachers make less money than engineers and they should factor that into their decision as to which career to go into,” he said.

Data in the report suggest that an Ivy Tech (statewide) graduate earns more on average after one year than a graduate from a four-year program, including ISU.

Bradley believes “you can’t draw that information from that report.”

Jason Bearce, a CHE associate commissioner, said the goal of the report is to help educate students and parents so they make informed choices about majors, careers and earning potential.

The intent is not to discourage young people from any career path, he said.

But with certain majors, “the route to your career path might be more indirect than you think,” he said. Students may find they have to work harder to market themselves to get a job, and the pay may not be as much as they had hoped.

If they have a significant loan debt, that can become the equivalent to another car or a housing payment, he said.

He also commented on data indicating that 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.

Initially, those Ivy Tech students might make more because their jobs are industry specific, Bearce said.

 Over the long term, those with a four-year degree, on average, will earn more over the course of their working lives.

According to the report, college graduates earn an extra $20,000 per year and more than $1 million over their careers compared with non-college graduates.

The bottom line, according to the report, is that “purposeful planning and college completion pay off.”

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or

Know more

• Learn more about the Commission’s new “Return on Investment” report at