Special Report

Most Expensive Colleges That Pay Off the Least

The student debt crisis is one of the most pressing public policy challenges of our time. Americans owe an estimated $1.6 trillion in student loans — more than any other form of debt after mortgages. And with some schools charging tens of thousands of dollars in tuition a year, it is easy to see why.  

Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most expensive colleges that pay off the least. Schools were ranked based on average annual cost of attendance as a percentage of the average salary of alumni 10 years after matriculation. We only considered alumni who took out federal loans and are employed and only schools with undergraduate enrollment of at least 100 and average annual cost of at least $30,000 were considered. 

The typical alumni of colleges on this list earn anywhere from $19,700 to $51,100 a year, equivalent to anywhere from 86% of one year tuition to 189%. In these cases, it can take them decades to pay off student loans, if they ever fully can.

According to the College Board’s 2018 Trends in College Pricing Report, the average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges is $10,230 — less than a third of the average tuition and fee price of $36,890 at private four-year schools. Perhaps not surprisingly, every school on this list is private. Some rank among the most expensive schools in the country. Here is a list of the most expensive college in every state

School attendance cost is only half of the equation, however. The other half is the types of jobs awaiting students after graduation. 

The majority of schools on this list are art schools, specializing in fields like music, film, visual arts, and fashion. Aspiring musicians and writers face crowded, highly competitive fields upon entering the workforce. Those in crafts or fine art are also highly susceptible to economic downturns, as people are less likely to make non-essential purchases if they do not think can afford to do so. Actors are typically paid hourly, and steady work can be hard to come by. 

Many of the jobs in these areas, while creatively fulfilling, are not especially high paying — especially for those who invested the time and money necessary to obtain a bachelor’s degree. These are the lowest paying jobs for college graduates.

Click here to see the most expensive colleges that pay off the least
Click here to read our methodology

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