This article comes from the Campus Contributor Network. Over the course of the semester, students from across our campus outreach program will analyze their school’s finances and assess the overall return students see on their educational investments.
With national student debt at an all-time high, college graduates need great returns to justify the costly investment. The College of William and Mary post-graduate outcomes shows how relevant undergraduate programs, varied course offerings, and effective career services can guarantee students the most bang for their buck.
Getting the best job
It is no secret that students go to college for more than just the learning. A degree goes a long way in the eyes of employers. Even collegiate rankings, such as those by Forbes and The Economist, factor outcomes such as high salaries and faster tracks to employment.
At William and Mary, 94% of the most recent graduating class either attends a graduate school or has full employment at an average salary of $42,000. However, certain majors yield more favorable outcomes for academically comparable students. The College provides a tool that allows students to view these outcomes here. Survey data from the previous four graduating classes reports higher income for specialized occupational studies as opposed to the humanities.
Finance and Computer Science majors boast an average income of $51,143 and $55,037 respectively. English majors weigh in at $34,049 a year, with History right behind it at $33,047.
This trend holds true nationally. Schools spend more on such programs in order to attract prospective students who are focused on post-graduate earnings. In turn, this creates an alumni network with fatter wallets for donations.
Despite being a liberal arts school, William and Mary added a computer science program in 1986 that continues to grow with high-caliber faculty and award-winning students every year. The college cultivates its business program as well, spending $75 million on Miller Hall, the primary academic building, in 2009. This keeps the school relevant and the degrees marketable.
Many disillusioned job-seekers often utter the mantra, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” Timing, connections, and even luck certainly play a role in this world and especially the job market.
Schools recognize that employment opportunity is not always a meritocracy. As a result, institutions across the country have implemented programs that help all students secure jobs. William and Mary offers a multitude of career services ranging from cover letter guidelines to on-campus employer interviews. The Cohen Career Center at the college served 2,735 students through quick advising and scheduled appointments in 2016.
The school also launched TribeCareers, an online platform than connects students with over 13,000 internship and 4,500 job opportunities in the Virginia area and around the country. Internships prove especially helpful by drastically increasing the likelihood of a job offer.The college also hosts two annual career fairs that help students network and meet potential employers. This type of outreach ensures that fewer people fall through the cracks.
More than a Resume Booster
An undergraduate culture that exclusively revolves around financial outcomes has several negative consequences, potentially deemphasizing the intrinsic value of learning and interpersonal-skill development. The perception that a degree is only as valuable as the paycheck it grants incentives students to disregard the liberal arts. According to federal data, the national percentage of humanities majors hovers around 7 percent — half of the 14 percent share in 1970. Many students no longer see the inherent value of reading, writing, and critical thinking.
In response to the building pressure many high-achieving students cheat to keep their marks up, according to a national study. In 2013, William and Mary’s President Reveley revised and strengthened the university Honor Code in response to the culture.
Further, academic pressure placed on students creates concern for their mental and physical well-being. On account of several tragedies across the country, including at William and Mary, the college expanded their student-support services: free 24-hour counseling service, assessment appointments, and group therapy sessions. The new McLeod Tyler Wellness Center will be constructed for $17 million by 2018.
So, while financial security is important for any student, especially those self-financing their degrees, it does not guarantee broader fulfillment. Students would be wise to realize this and not lose sight of all college has to offer.
With the exorbitant cost of education, students cannot be blamed for trying to earn the most from it. Schools ought to follow William and Mary’s example by lending students the opportunity to pursue specialized programs but also learn for the sake of learning.
Proper mental health services as well as great accountability measures can ensure the high-achieving culture does not ruin the education. Career services especially can assuage fears and give opportunity to all students.
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