Report shows BYU grads’ earnings beat out national median

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Cougar fans have been busy supporting the BYU football team this season, but now they can cheer for something else as well.

A government report shows BYU graduates earn considerably higher salaries than graduates from most other colleges in the country, while paying a fraction of the tuition cost as students at many other American universities. They also make more than graduates who attended BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii and other large universities in Utah.

The Department of Education released a report detailing financial and academic statistics for American universities. BYU students rank high on median salary. (U.S. Department of Education)
The federal government released a report detailing financial and academic statistics for American universities. BYU students rank high on former students’ median salary. (U.S. Department of Education)

The U.S. Department of Education recently released data about college students across the nation. The department calculated earnings by looking at undergrads who received federal financial aid and their median salary 10 years after entering college.

The department found that the national median salary is $34,343 per year, and former BYU students make an average of $57,400.

Jonny Stiles, a BYU sophomore studying information systems, said graduates from his program have an average starting salary of about $54,000. That number represents entry-level earnings, not the 10-years-later figure calculated by the education department.

“The opportunities to make more grow from there, depending on your experience and how good you are,” Stiles said. “You could very possibly get into six-digit figures.”

Stiles also said he believes BYU offers a great education for a relatively low cost, which helps students graduate with less amounts of debt than many of their counterparts at other universities, even with the recent 2.9 percent tuition increase.

“BYU is priced so that you don’t have to take out lots of student loans to pay for school,” Stiles said. “It’s a relief knowing that you won’t be locked down by loans for the rest of your life.”

U.S. News & World Report ranked BYU as No.16 for best-value colleges in another report on American universities. Nearly half of the schools ranking above BYU are Ivy League universities.

“If you’re looking at value as a function of how good an education you get for the price you pay, I think BYU is one of the best schools out there,” Stiles said.

BYU spokesman Todd Hollingshead said there’s a simple reason that explains the school’s low tuition.

“BYU is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that generous sponsorship helps us keep our tuition fees low for our students,” Hollingshead said.

The government report shows that 19 percent of BYU undergraduates take out federal loans. The median federal debt for those students is $11,000, and 94 percent of them begin paying off their loans within three years of finishing their degrees.

Students from BYU-Hawaii and BYU-Idaho have a lower median salary than their peers in Provo but still beat the national number, according to the education department’s report.

The median salary is $39,400 for BYU-Hawaii graduates and $39,000 for BYU-Idaho graduates 10 years after they began college.

Sunnie Pearson, a BYU-Hawaii senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said she thinks she will earn a high salary after beginning her career. Pearson graduates in June and will work for a year before starting a graduate program for physician assistants.

Pearson said she believes she could work her way up the salary ladder and eventually make between $90,000 and $150,000 per year with her undergraduate degree and graduate program.

While the median salary for former BYU-Idaho students squeaks in a few hundred dollars behind the same statistic for BYU-Hawaii students, BYU-Idaho does offer its students a lower annual cost of attendance than either of the other schools named after Brigham Young.

The education department calculated these averages by finding the total cost for federal financial aid recipients and subtracting the money they receive from the school, state and federal government.

The price tag on a semester’s tuition at BYU-Idaho is $1,915 for LDS students. Tuition currently costs LDS students $2,550 per semester at BYU-Hawaii and $2,575 for the LDS students in Provo.

Jared Justice, a BYU-Idaho freshman majoring in finance, said he thinks he’s getting a great deal on his schooling. He called his education “underrated.”

“It’s inexpensive, but BYU-Idaho definitely provides a great education,” Justice said. “You’re getting more than you pay for here.”

Justice also expressed high confidence in his future earning power. He said his degree from BYU-Idaho will help him make a comfortable living.

“Six figures would be nice,” Justice said. “I’m pretty positive I’ll be able to get there.”

All three of the BYU campuses stack up well compared to the large universities in Utah, at least for some of the data fields. Pearson, for example, is a Utah resident. She was accepted to the University of Utah but chose BYU-Hawaii in the end.

“I crunched the numbers, and BYU-Hawaii turned out to be cheaper than the University of Utah,” Pearson said.

The University of Utah beats out BYU-Hawaii and BYU-Idaho for former students’ median salary, according to the report, but BYU has the highest median salary of all the major universities in Utah. The education department reports a median salary of $49,300 for people who attended the University of Utah— $8,100 less than what BYU graduates make. With Utah Valley University’s graduates making a median salary of $43,500, the university in Orem takes third-place for large Utah schools.

The education department’s full report is available at collegescorecard.ed.gov. The major findings are related to financial aspects of American universities, but the report also shows academic and demographic information.

 

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