Which college is the best financial investment in Connecticut?

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Using the recently released comparative college data from the U.S. Department of Education, TrendCT looked at college admissions, average cost, and median earnings years after graduation for schools in Connecticut.

We can dig a little deeper to figure out which colleges offer the best return on the cost per student.

One way to do that is to compare the median debt a student graduates with to how much he or she will make in the future. In this instance, the U.S. Department of Education provided median earnings for students 10 years after they enrolled in 2001.

Largest ratio
Smallest ratio

The analysis showed that Goodwin College students graduated with a higher debt than the median salary they would make years later ($33,764 to $25,800).

Clarification: Though this type of broad data analysis is useful for institutions that have been in existence for decades, it might not necessarily apply to schools going through a transitionary period or just starting up. The 2011 earnings data from the Department of Education tracked students enrolled in 2001, but Goodwin College transitioned to non-for-profit status and was accredited in 2004. So Goodwin College’s datapool of students included others like Goodwin Institute, according to Dan Noonan, Vice President for Enrollment Services. At the time this data was captured in 2001 and now being used for this analysis 14-years later, Goodwin College was in existence for 27-months and does not at all reflect what Goodwin College is today, he said.

“It is invalid to compare the student debt of a student attending in 2011 to a student enrolled in 2001 in a non-collegiate, vocational program,” said Noonan. “Programs of study offered in 2001 had significantly different vocational outcomes than the programs of study the College offers today.”

TrendCT and Goodwin College will be exploring this further and will be including updated numbers in the near future. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Norwalk Community College grads walked away with a median debt of $3,500 and made almost $32,000 in 2011, according to the Department of Higher Education. That was the school with the largest salary to debt ratio in Connecticut.

Is there a correlation between the exclusivity of a college and a graduate’s earnings to debt ratio?

In Connecticut, there’s a correlation of -.68, which is fairly strong.

However, the sample size is small since only a couple dozen colleges in Connecticut provided admission rate data. And Yale might be an outlier with its Ivy League status.

So let’s expand the sample size and look at all colleges in the country.

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The coefficient is only -.2. So nationally, there’s a very weak correlation.

Is there a correlation between students’ average SAT scores and the earnings to debt ratio after graduation?

In Connecticut, there’s a correlation of 0.8, which is a very strong correlation.

But as before, we should expand the sample size to be safe.

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The correlation drops to 0.5, which is not quite as significant.

What do you think?

  • Dan Noonan

    The data used in these calculations comes from the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the National Student Loan Database System. IPEDS data is primarily reflective of schools that service traditionally aged 18-22 year old students and doesn’t tell a complete story. At Goodwin College, this number represents only between 4% and 7% of the fall semester enrollment annually. It is not enough to have data – it needs to be good data.

    For example, Goodwin College has graduated over 5,300 students since 2001. Included in this number are nearly 1,400 registered nurses who are making an impact in the healthcare industry as well as the Connecticut economy. The average, validated median salary of our graduates since 2011 is in excess of $45,000. The data is in this report is 10-years
    old. At the time this data was captured, Goodwin College was in existence for 27-months and does not at all reflect what
    Goodwin College is today.

    It’s very important to note that over 60% of our students transfer into Goodwin College. Not only do these students transfer in their credits from previous schools, they also bring with them their preexisting debt. The average median graduation debt
    reported does not relate solely to their studies at Goodwin College. It is only that we were successful in helping
    them complete what they started.

    As mentioned above, this data does not accurately represent schools such as Goodwin College and is going through
    revisions – some of which will be occurring later this year. We hope that they do better.

    • Andrew Ba Tran

      Dan, you make excellent points. The years that the US Department of Education focused on overlapped with a transitory time for Goodwin. And there’s much more nuance with the transfers. We should chat.

  • Michele

    I appreciate this article. I am in my final semester at Middlesex Community College in Middletown, CT and will be graduating with an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts & Science – Humanities Track with plans to transfer to an Austin, Texas college in fall 2016.

    My question is: Did you break down the types of degrees each college confers (or have access to that information)? For example, I do not have the data, but from speaking with fellow students, most seem to be earning an associate’s degree in General Studies. From what I have read, this is not really the degree you want if you plan to find employment after graduating (i.e., not transferring to a nursing program or four-year school) and would not even put a student in a strong position to transfer to a good school. And from the differences in graduation requirements for the General Studies and the Liberal Arts & Science degree, I can understand why. I actually had to ask several times at advising appointments what would be the requirements for earning the Liberal Arts & Science degree (I had declared General Studies the year before because I had no idea what I wanted to study). At my last appointment, I had to work with my adviser while going through the graduation checklist to ensure that my final semester of classes would meet the requirements for the Liberal Arts & Science degree. I received a couple of “it should meet the requirements for…” for a two particular requirements. I had to insist on a definitive answer; she made calls for me. Why is the college not pushing students to earn Liberal Arts & Science degrees vs. General Studies? Would earning the more rigorous degree affect earnings of graduates (I would think so). Just some thoughts for more in-depth research.