Return on investment

How do CWRU’s post-graduation salaries stack up against the nation?

The Observer

Regular Case Western Reserve University students often find themselves questioning whether the high tuition rates and seemingly unreasonable academic workloads are worth it all. According to the most recent PayScale report, it is, at least when it comes to the starting salaries that a CWRU degree will earn. Job applicants with a degree from this university thrive in the job market. But do they perform so well because CWRU prepares them adequately for the real world, or is this success solely due to having acquired skills that are currently in high demand?

The report from 2013 – 14 ranks CWRU 68th in the nation for highest student starting salaries. Compared with over a thousand other U.S. universities, that is pretty impressive, and so are the earnings of some individual majors. The highest-paying bachelor’s degree is, unsurprisingly, in computer engineering. As a STEM-oriented university especially known for its engineering programs, it makes more sense that CWRU ranks high when it comes to comparing starting salaries. Other universities that rank similarly are University of California, Irvine and University of California, Davis. Meanwhile, CWRU ranks higher than many big names, like New York University and Johns Hopkins University.

From this data, it becomes clear that CWRU indeed does something right if it spews out graduates earning an average of $56,400 right out of college. The university appears to do an excellent job of preparing its students to be successful adults living financially-stable lives in the real world. But is this success universal between all of our offered majors?

Unsurprisingly, the PayScale report does not list humanities and social science majors among the highest-paying degrees to obtain from CWRU. While this is a trend that is not dependent on the university, it is a reality that CWRU could better prepare its liberal arts students. In the fall of 2013, around 43 percent of CWRU students major in STEM fields. That means that 57 percent are aiming at a degree that may or may not be as financially fruitful in the future, at least according to the statistics.

Humanities degrees continue to be popular among students because they allow us to broaden our perspectives and learn more about the world we live in. These skills are essential for members of today’s labor force, but the focus on the academic side of the university experience can limit a student’s future employment options. Apart from a few exceptions, humanities majors tend to place in lower-paying jobs after graduation, which means that the university should put all the more effort in training those students to effectively compete in the exceedingly tough job market. The humanities departments of CWRU should shift their focus from sole classroom-based learning to experiential learning.

Some of the liberal arts departments at this university, such as the department of political science, already offer students various opportunities to gain as much practical experience in the field as possible. Political science majors are bombarded with e-mails about job opportunities and scholarships they can use to fund unpaid internships. The department emphasizes the importance of combining real-world experience with theoretical knowledge from the classroom.

The humanities departments could also turn to the Weatherhead School of Management. Business students at CWRU are offered plenty of opportunities to implement their knowledge in the workplace through co-ops and internships which are coordinated through the department itself. WSOM also holds action learning courses and industry-focused SAGES seminars. Professional societies also have regular lectures hosted at the Peter B. Lewis building and the school itself has its own career counseling office. An added benefit for WSOM students is the advising system. Advisors do not only help their advisees with academics, but also take responsibility for their career guidance. This is a model that all the liberal arts departments should follow. In-class learning only provides so much value when, at the end of the day, one has hardly anything substantial to put on their resume.

It is completely acceptable for CWRU and its students to boast about the PayScale ranking and the sunny outlook that a degree from this school provides for many. But while the university is doing a good job in preparing some of its students for their work life, it should not forget the rest. A CWRU degree will be truly worth the money only if it’s worth everyone’s money.