With the value of college continually coming into question, the National Association of Colleges and Employers conducts an annual survey
which tracks the first place American college students work after they graduate.
Traditional liberal arts majors saw the biggest jump of all bachelor’s degree graduates in starting salary for 2015.
Language majors saw the biggest jump of the group, up 27.3% from $33,705 in 2014 to $38,537 in 2015.
Area studies, which includes majors like Latin American studies, increased 26.4% to $43,524, history increased 14.3% to $38,936, and English increased 13.6% to $38,125.
While this was only the second year the survey was conducted, it includes 273 schools and 381,000 students, making it the most comprehensive study of bachelor’s degree outcomes available. The average starting salary for all bachelor’s degrees is $50,219.
Included in the average salary calculation was any full-time employee as of six months after graduation, including freelance and contract workers.
Even with the stark rate of salary increase, however, liberal arts majors still fall far below the average starting salary. That fact doesn’t escape many politicians when they give speeches on student loan debt.
“Before you take out $40,000 or $50,000 in student loans you deserve to be told how much you can expect to make when you graduate with that degree so you can decide whether it’s worth borrowing $40,000 to be a Greek philosophy major,” Senator Marco Rubio said in a speech in 2015. “The market for Greek philosophers is tight,” he continued.
Indeed, liberal arts majors have yet to catch up to more lucrative maths and science majors that typically pay well, even at entry-level.
Computer science is still the top paid starting salary at $69,214. Engineering came in second at $63,764, and mathematics at $58,554 is third.
Meanwhile, student-loan debt in the US continues to skyrocket. At $1.3 trillion, it exceeds car loans and credit-card debt figures.
And between 1995 and 2015, the average sticker price for tuition at private colleges increased 179%, compared to an inflation increase 55.1% over the same period, according to the US News & World Report
. At public universities, in-state tuition jumped 296%.
Now, more than ever, students must choose their college majors carefully and consider the future earning power of their chosen degrees.
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