Texas State has been named one of the highest-ranking Texas colleges for return on investment, meaning students pay less tuition in college and make more money in the professional world.
AffordableCollegesOnline.org compiled the list of “Highest Return On Investment Colleges in Texas.” The website seeks to educate prospective college students on the affordability of the college experience, said Dan Schuessler, Affordable Colleges Online founder and CEO, via email. After analyzing 452 Texas colleges that met the criteria of being a fully-accredited, four-year, public or private institution, 49 Texas colleges were ranked, with Texas State coming in at number 32 on the list.
Affordable Colleges Online calculates return on investment by comparing the average salary of college graduates over a 30-year period to the average earnings of someone with a high school diploma. The cost of educational investment, determined by the total cost of tuition, fees, room, board and supplies throughout college, is then subtracted from the average salary amount, according to the site’s methodology page.
Schuessler said the goal of the website’s list is to provide information about more affordable college experiences.
“Until recently there hasn’t been an easy way to quantify the actual monetary return on investment,” Schuessler said. “While the data isn’t perfect and the return on investment metrics are not widely available today, I believe it will become a more meaningful metric very soon.”
The data used in the calculations is derived from National Center for Education Statistics, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Carnegie Classification and PayScale.com’s 2013 College Value Report, according to the Affordable Colleges Online website.
The calculation of return on investment does not take into account the various levels of post-college earnings achieved based on individual courses of study completed within an institution, a factor Schuessler admits is important to consider as well.
“What might be more interesting is the return on investment by program,” Schuessler said. “When sorting through the data it is clear that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs are bringing the highest ROI (Return On Investment) as these graduates earn more on average than graduates from other programs.”
According to Payscale.com, graduates who go on to pursue higher than a bachelor’s degree were excluded from the survey upon which the college earnings report is based.
Carlos Laird, associate director of Undergraduate Admissions at Texas State, said he is not usually asked about return on investment by parents and prospective students.
"I don’t think most high school students are thinking about that,” Laird said. “Parents tend to want to know about outcomes—job placement, graduation rates, those sort of things. We try not to compare ourselves to other institutions.”
Schuessler said return on investment is something concerning students more as tuition rises and the average amount of debt increases.
He said students approach their college decisions relatively similarly to how students have approached them for the past few decades, weighing factors such as cost, location, reputation and program details.
Mass communication senior Erica Brokaw said her decision to attend Texas State was influenced more by interest in her field of study than by its potential to yield a return on her investment.
“It doesn’t change my opinion at all,” Brokaw said. “It’s an inexpensive public school in an expensive area of Texas, and the enrollment is sky high, so the ranking doesn’t surprise me at all.”