Post-Grad Life Offers Murkier View of College Rankings

While the debate about rankings has focused primarily on how statistics affect undergraduate enrollment, school reputation may have very different consequences for graduating seniors. Based on statistics about post-graduate achievements, success in the future is not primarily dependent on college rank.

All five Claremont Colleges are ranked in the U.S. News top 50 colleges, with Pomona ranking highest, Claremont McKenna (CMC) second, Harvey Mudd third, Scripps fourth and Pitzer fifth. However, the long-term success of graduates in terms of salary and educational achievement does not perfectly correlate with these rankings.

Harvey Mudd graduates get paid on average significantly more than graduates of any other college in the consortium and are also more likely to achieve a PhD. The 2011-2012 PayScale College Report states that the median starting salary for Harvey Mudd graduates is $64,400. CMC grads start at $54,400, and Pomona grads start at $47,000. Pitzer students have the lowest starting salary of the four at $39,500, with Scripps declining to contribute statistics to the PayScale report. 

Kym Louie HM ’12 said that these pay statistics likely have more to do with the type of degrees that Harvey Mudd students receive than with the school’s statistics. Harvey Mudd’s most popular majors include mathematics and statistics, engineering, physics and computer science, which are also currently among the best-paid majors for undergraduates. The lower starting pay-grades of the other colleges may be more indicative of the respective majors of the student bodies than of differential prestige. 

Starting salary is not the only indicator of post-graduate success. However, Mudd also leads by other measures. Thirty-six percent of Mudd’s Class of 2011 had immediate plans to go to graduate school, compared to 20 percent of Scripps graduates, 14.5 percent of Pomona graduates and 12 percent of CMC graduates. Statistics could not be found for Pitzer, although the college, with its focus on social justice, produced 20 Fulbright scholars this year, making it the highest producer of Fulbright scholars per thousand students in the country.

Louie said that she has seen that the majority of Mudd graduates rely on their own ingenuity rather than on the reputation of the institution to get jobs.

“A lot of people coming out of Mudd find jobs completely on their own or through internships they’ve done over the summer,” Louie said. 

This self-dependence is not isolated to Mudd. Scripps alumna Lia Seth SC ’11 found her resourcefulness and endurance tested upon entering the job market after graduation last year. The first three months of searching were “disheartening,” Seth said. Through an acquaintance, she eventually found a job at a startup company, where she works in marketing and sales. 

Seth, who got her degree in Politics and International Relations, views her current position as a “good starter job.” While she ultimately hopes to work in finance, the work experience is useful.

“I’m working, I’m getting paid, but I still have time to figure out what it is I want to do,” Seth said. Her experience is a common one. While several students in her class graduated with job opportunities or graduate school acceptances, many of Seth’s classmates took several months to find work and some are still looking.  

It was not the specific college she attended but the liberal arts nature of her degree that attracted the attention of employers, Seth said.

“Yes, I have a really solid background in my major, but I’ve also done lab sciences, I’m fairly close to bilingual, I have a basic understanding of upper-level math and economics,” Seth said. “I’m very well-rounded and I think employers definitely notice that when they see a liberal arts school like Scripps on my resume.”

Although most employers hadn’t heard of Scripps, several had heard of the consortium as a whole. United, the prestige of the schools and their liberal arts focus held more weight than the individual rankings of the colleges.

“I have definitely seen times where it’s given me a clear advantage over my peers,” Seth said.

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