The Value of an Undergraduate Education

Numerous aphorisms and proverbs tout the transformatory power of education, and especially higher education.

Recent articles in the news media and blogosphere have questioned the value of an undergraduate education, however, citing tuition costs and student debts. Some pundits have claimed that an undergraduate degree is simply not worth its cost anymore.

Most professors and students in the humanities would challenge the notion that education can be valued in purely monetary terms.

Nonetheless, people who do want to assess education in financial terms now have some new tools.

Business Insider has created a list of the Top 25 Underrated Colleges in America. This list compares the US News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities (at the undergraduate level) with graduates’ mid-career salary data from those institutions.

My own university, Northern Illinois University, came in at #24 on the list of the Top 25 Underrated Colleges in America.

NIU-Altgeld Hall

According to Business Insider, the average mid-career salary of NIU graduates is $78,300.

As a public state university, NIU offers an impressive array of undergraduate degrees at affordable tuition rates.

NIU’s annual undergraduate tuition and fees for 2013-2014 (based on a full load of 12 credit hours per semester) is a still affordable $10,481.84. Many NIU students qualify for scholarships, Pell Grants, Illinois MAP Grants, and other financial aid packages that significantly defray the cost of their education.

Undergraduate education at NIU remains an excellent value, even before taking into account insights and intellectual growth that cannot be monetized.

See the story at the Business Insider online. To see how graduates with majors in the liberal arts have fared nationally in their career salaries, see an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. A chart from this article presents the findings on liberal arts graduates’ salaries over time:


For a debate over how to assess college performance and the value of education, see another piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

This entry was posted in Careers in History, Education Policy, Humanities Education, Northern Illinois University, Undergraduate Work in History. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.