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Economic Return On Investment for College

Education is often seen as an enlightened, noble, or even pure field. When running a business, people ask, "how will doing this specific thing make us money?" But, culturally, people are much more reluctant to ask that of their teachers, administrators, etc., even if many are aware that such a deeper question exists. In the absence of those fortunate few who will inherit a large enough sum of money never to need to work, the rest of us need to make our money ourselves and would be wise to know exactly how to do this.

Some foundations have analyzed the predictive return on investment of different universities and college majors:

Top-ranked colleges, especially technical colleges, get higher rankings than lower-ranked colleges. S.T.E.M. majors tend to pay more than liberal arts majors.

While knowing that majoring in engineering at M.I.T. tends to pay more than majoring in liberal arts from a lesser-known school, almost to the point of it being considered "common sense," not everyone can see why this persists: it takes a significantly higher amount of intelligence, performance in courses, hard work ethic, and family financing to get into a top-ranked school versus a non-selective school. Likewise, even when accepted, it takes tremendous focus and time management to stick to a course like mechanical engineering instead of a more multi-faceted liberal arts concentration. More practically, even if everyone could graduate with a degree in a S.T.E.M. field from a top-ranked school, it takes a higher caliber of social skills and on-the-job performance to keep on that specific vocational track and advance to higher-paying roles.

In all of this speculation and skepticism, the key message remains: use enlightened trial and error to find the best fit for you.

Whether a top-ranked school or a lesser-known school, S.T.E.M. or liberal arts, find a good academic concentration, college choice, and career choice for you. If you want more money, work longer and harder.

Data analysis remains the game-changer in seeing this field's realistic expectations and trajectory. Nonetheless, your efforts will determine how well you fit into these models, or defy them entirely.

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