Study Says BC Grads Are High Earners
A wages report for Virginia college graduates completed by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) says that Bluefield College graduates earn some of the highest salaries in the state.
November 15, 2012
A recent study by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) says that Bluefield College baccalaureate graduates earn more in their first year on the job than the average Virginia four-year college graduate.
While Bluefield College officials are pleased about a recent study that says their graduates are among the highest earners in Virginia, they are equally proud of their graduates who choose careers in service, missions and other areas that are typically lower-paying jobs, but just as valuable and fulfilling.
The report, a product of SCHEV’s new Virginia Longitudinal Data System, which grew out of a movement to trace the path of individual students from elementary school through college, is designed to link education data with employment and wage records.
Now required by law passed by the state legislature this year, the degree and wage data includes information on graduates known to be working in Virginia and their average first-year salary by institution and program of study. In essence, the report tells how much graduates from specific Virginia college programs, public and private, earnwhen they enter the job market -- a matter of serious debate and interest to parents and lawmakers in an era of rising college tuition and student debt.
“There is much discussion about the value of a college education,” said Bluefield College president Dr. David Olive. “While some skeptics have challenged the cost of higher education during these challenging economic times, studies similar to this report continue to reflect there is still great value in a college education. Wages certainly are one important indicator, but there are many other valuable outcomes of a college education, as well.”
Among the findings in this groundbreaking database, Bluefield College graduates with baccalaureate degrees earn more in their first year on the job than the average four-year graduates from other Virginia colleges. In fact, BC grads with four-year degrees earn an average annual salary of $43,442, according to the SCHEV data, compared to the statewide average of $36,067 for baccalaureate grads from all other Virginia schools.
As a matter of fact, average BC alumni salaries in their first year of employment outpace other Virginia private school four-year degree grads from Emory and Henry College ($27,129), Virginia Intermont College ($27,751), Ferrum College ($27,806), BridgewaterCollege ($28,913), Randolph-Macon College ($30,621), the College of William and Mary ($34,571), and Averett University ($40,744), among others.
BC bachelor’s degree graduates, the report said, also earn more on average than state school baccalaureate grads from Radford University ($31,825), Virginia Commonwealth University ($34,677), James Madison University ($35,224), Old Dominion University ($36,571), Virginia Military Institute ($38,914), Virginia Tech ($38,957), and the University of Virginia ($39,648), among others.
In data regarding specific programs of study, the report indicated, for example, that criminal justice bachelor’s degree graduates from Bluefield College on average earn more than other CRJfour-year graduates statewide with an average salary of $52,122, compared to an average of $34,492 for first-year CRJ graduates from other Virginia colleges. BC psychology graduates also fare well, according to SCHEV. First-year BC grads with a four-year bachelor’s degree in psychology average $43,832 in earnings, while the same graduates from other colleges statewide average $43,815 in pay.
While Bluefield College officials are pleased with the SCHEV findings and the return on the investment their students are getting, they say that wages for graduates are just one indication of the value of a BC education.
“Our graduates have a passion for service, and many enter human service fields where the value of their Bluefield College education will never be determined by their paychecks, but by the lives of the people they touch,” said Dr. David Bailey, chair of the BC Board of Trustees. “Whether they choose a major that leads to a high-paying career or a path that leads to service above self, we are proud of the varied accomplishments of our students.”
Other values in addition to salary, BC officials said, should be considered when evaluating the worth of a degree. For example, since Bluefield College is a Christian college with a high priority on service learning, it is not surprising that many of its graduates find work in service and missions, jobs which notoriously offer lower starting salaries, but with intangible values that are difficult to measure.
In addition, the relationship between a specific area of study and the career one pursues is not always clear, said BC leaders, and the decisions of graduates are highly individual and varied. Furthermore, the impact of local economies on wages is often overlooked in reports like SCHEV’s. Reviewers of the data should be mindful that local economies might have a profound impact on wage outcomes.
“Many factors affect how much an individual graduate earns,” said Dr. Olive. “Such influences go well beyond the institution or the academic program and often include the mission and nature of the employing organization, cost of living differences between communities, and graduates’ individual preferences. Not everyone chooses to maximize wages over all other considerations.”
And, Bluefield College is not the only one offering the disclaimer about its solid showing in the SCHEV report. Even SCHEV provides its caveats about the wagedata. For example, the report is limited to graduates working full time in the state in positions that must be reported to the Virginia Employment Commission, which means graduates who work outside the state, who are self-employed or who work for the federal government are not included. In other words, the report simply doesn’t tell the whole story.
But, despite the caveats, the SCHEV data does cast a spotlight on a question many college students and their parents are asking: Just what is a degree worth?And, to some extent, the data answers that question and provides evidence of the likely ability of a graduate with student loans to be able to begin repaying those loans after graduation.
Just who are the most likely baccalaureate graduates to earn enough to erase that college debt, according to SCHEV: engineers. Graduates from Virginia colleges with four-year engineering degrees earn on average between $48,088 (civil engineers) and $61,517 (systems engineers) with various other engineers earning somewhere in between. The next highest earning four-year degrees, according to the report: management science ($53,123), information technology ($50,295),human resource management ($50,127), construction management ($49,837), dental hygienist ($49,106), registered nurse ($47,954), radiological technician ($47,238), accounting ($42,086), and computer science ($41,192).
“Many students and families are challenged by the cost of a college education, and I think this report helps students in understanding potential salary ranges for what they might expect to make within the first few years of graduation,” said Dr. Olive. “This information hopefully helps students and families better weigh the sacrifices and investment needed to obtain a quality education when compared against the potential of having good paying, sustainable jobs.”