Both rankings measured the difference between students’ expected earnings when matriculating into an institution and their projected median earnings after college. Georgetown placed 16th out of 1,275 tertiary institutions in the United States in The Economist ranking and received a score of 99/100 in the Brookings Institute’s study.
The Economist’s list, the first college ranking in the publication’s history, ranked colleges based on the difference between expected earnings and median earnings 10 years after a student enters the university.
According to The Economist’s metrics, a Georgetown student’s projected median annual earnings is $83,300, which is $9,198 higher than their expected annual earnings of $74,102. The study used the projected median earnings from the college scorecard report released by the Department of Education in October, and derived the expected earnings figure by combing data such as SAT scores, sex ratio and college size to predict the earnings of future alumni.
The Brookings Institute ranking ranked colleges out of 100 by measuring the percent change between figure by combining data such as SAT scores, sex ratio and college size to predict the earnings of future alumni.
The Brookings Institution ranking ranked colleges out of 100 by measuring the percent change between actual median earnings and predicted earnings. The former figure was also taken from the college scorecard, while the latter was derived using metrics such as race and ethnicity, academic preparation and family income.
According to the study, Georgetown students are predicted to earn $57,076 compared to their actual projected median earnings of $87,669, which results in a 42.9 percent value-added total for students. This garnered the university a 99/100 rating.
Many other peer institutions also received top scores. Harvard University received a 100/100 rating, while Yale University received 88/100 and the University of Pennslyvania received 97/100.
While both studies used the scorecard for their figures, The Economist used figures from students who matriculated in 2001 and Brookings used earning figures from three different years of matriculation: 1997 to 1998, 2001 to 2002 and 2005 to 2006.
Both The Economist and Brookings rankings only included students who receive federal aid, which was the only demographic of students studied by the college scorecard report. According to Rothwell, this exclusion significantly impacted the results.
“The College Scorecard database is limited to students who receive federal aid. I estimate that federal aid recipients typically earn about 85 cents for every dollar earned by nonrecipients, so the earnings data are significantly affected by this,” Rothwell wrote.
According to Cawley Career Education Center Executive Director Mike Schaub, The Economist’s study shows the value of a Georgetown education, but does not fully encompass further qualitative benefits of studying at Georgetown.
“I am pleased that the Georgetown education translates to a strong earning potential,” Schaub wrote in an email to The Hoya. “However, I believe that the value of the Georgetown education extends far beyond what can be determined by the regression analysis utilized by The Economist. The value of a Georgetown education reflects learning experiences obtained by students both in and out of the classroom.”
Fellow at Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program Jonathan Rothwell, who authored the Brookings Institution report, said a Georgetown education is beneficial toward a student’s future career earnings. However, the score may be impeded by the fact that students’ incomes are already expected to be high when they matriculate.
“Georgetown ranks even higher on the median salary of alumni in the same cohort, but falls slightly on the value-added ranking because predicted earnings are also very high for Georgetown students, given their high scores on admission exams and the high family income of the average student,” Rothwell wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Rothwell also said the value added by Georgetown to graduates’ income is increasing over time.
“I also found that Georgetown has increased the value it adds to alumni earnings more than all but eight other four-year colleges,” Rothwell wrote. “These results suggest that if I were to redo the main analysis for more recent students once they have had some work experience, Georgetown would likely rate even higher than it does now.”
The Economist’s rankings center on the assumption that a student values the economic value of a university above other qualitative factors such as appropriate fit, location and curriculum choice.
“The Economist’s first-ever college rankings are based on a simple, if debatable, premise: the economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much money its students subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere,” the report reads.
Dan Rosenheck, editor of The Economist’s data team, was not available to comment at press time.
The No. 1 college on The Economist’s rankings is Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., which sees alumni earning $22,377 more than their expected earnings.
Other colleges in the top 20 include Harvard University in fourth place and the University of Pennsylvania at 15th place, with alumni earnings above expectation by $12,734 and $9,387, respectively. In contrast, the report shows that Yale University alumni earn $-9,590 less than expected, which results in a ranking of 1,270 out of 1,275 colleges.
Rothwell’s report includes an analysis of earnings data from Payscale, an online salary information database that used a smaller sample size of students but did not limit the sample of aid-recipients. According to Rothwell, Georgetown’s score is lower when nonrecipients are considered.
“Georgetown does less well by this measure — 85th [per]centile of value-added using Payscale compared to the 99th [per]centile using the Scorecard,” Rothwell wrote.
Schaub also stressed that Georgetown graduates provide positive impact in all careers that they choose to pursue, regardless of income.
“Even if graduates are earning below the median salary point derived from this study, I believe that they are making meaningful contributions to their work, family and community,” Schaub wrote. “Based on my interactions with alumni, the Georgetown education is valuable regardless of the job or the salary range.”
Diane Lowitt (COL ’19) said the rankings neglect other factors of success, such as happiness, after graduation.
“I’ve learned a lot with how income doesn’t necessarily correlate with happiness after graduation, and I think it’d probably be different if they looked at the overall well-being of graduates,” Lowitt said.
Payaum Sanatkar (SFS ’18) said that The Economist’s rankings focus very narrowly on economic value while ignoring important aspects of college such as research and service.
“I find The Economist’s college rankings based off of economic value perfectly fine if you think the goal of a university is to produce economic advantages for its students,” Sanatkar said. “I, however, find the role of a university is to produce research and promote service for the general good, and in that case, while I find the Economist’s ranking system fair, I do not put much value in it.”
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