Despite SmartMoney ranking Purdue the eighth best value for a University in the nation, some graduates easily find jobs, but others struggle or are unemployed.
The study compared full-price tuition costs against median -salaries for recent and mid-career graduates. The greater the salaries are relative to how much students paid in tuition, the higher the ranking. SmartMoney states the basic study quickly finds the “bottom line” in determining a degree’s value and usually ranks large, public institutions highly.
Georgia Institute of Technology was ranked first. The University of Illinois, at No. 5, was the only other Big Ten University in the top 10. Princeton, at No. 18, was the first Ivy League school to be ranked.
SmartMoney compared Purdue’s median salary of $51,800 for recent graduates and $87,200 for mid-career graduates to the class of 2009’s tuition costs, which was $86,538 over four years.
Vic Lechtenberg, acting provost and chief academic officer, said the ranking proves to show modest costs for a degree.
“It certainly adds to brand identification and value,” Lechtenberg said. “I find it interesting, but not surprising … if they had based it on resident tuition, it would be better.”
Elizabeth Konz, who graduated in 2008 with a master’s degree in speech-language pathology, began working in the high-demand field within two weeks of graduating. Konz, who works in Tampa Bay, Fla., said Purdue graduates have advantages with nationwide name recognition and generalized strong work ethics.
“I felt I had a very clear advantage with my Purdue degree. Everyone in my field knows that a Purdue degree is a solid degree,” Konz said. “I do believe being a Purdue alumna attributed to being a strong candidate due to its high rankings and reputation across the country.”
Students with some degrees struggle more than others. Chelsea Schroeder, who completed a bachelor’s degree in elementary education this year, also agreed that being a Purdue alumna increased her competitiveness as a job candidate, though she feels lucky to have a job. Schroeder teaches first grade, but she wasn’t offered a position until four days before the school year started in August.
“Probably almost half of my friends that I graduated with in elementary education don’t have jobs,” she said. “Especially in Indiana, some have moved away because it’s super competitive.”
At her job interview, she said, the principal of her school said he has experienced success in hiring Purdue alumni.
Despite that success, Purdue’s post-graduate data from May 2011 indicates median starting salaries for elementary education at $28,205.
“I always knew that I wasn’t going to get paid more just because I went to Purdue. That’s not how my profession works,” Schroeder said. “And I was under no false pretense that was going to happen.”
Lechtenberg acknowledged that technical degrees are likely to be increasing Purdue’s salary statistics. Post-graduate data report higher starting salary averages in technical fields than non-technical, with 87 percent of graduates employed or continuing education. For bachelor’s degrees, the highest average starting salary was in computer science, at $65,802. The lowest average was in forestry, fisheries and wildlife, at $27,507.