UPDATE: For a follow-up post, I dug further into the Daily Beast's numbers. They are not all they claim to be. Check out my findings here.
The Daily Beast has released their list of the 200 best colleges, topped by Yale, as well as 9 sub-lists, such as hardest, happiest and sexxxiest (almost all state schools). One list in particular was making the rounds on my Facebook feed, because my alma mater was number one: Worst Return On Investment.
Yes, my beloved Oberlin was given that dubious distinction based on a few simple metrics:
6-Year Grad Rate: 88%
Average Net Price: $34,797
Average Starting Salary: $38,800
Average Midcareer Salary: $83,900
Those numbers are useful, and I don’t begrudge the Daily Beast for putting them together. Because future earnings and affordability collectively make up 40% of the Daily Beast’s overall rankings, Oberlin appears nowhere on the top 200 list.
Yet, this whole exercise of ranking colleges based on how much they level up your earning power irks me. In fact, it reveals my inner Obie: those numbers quoted above look just fine to me, provided they come doing meaningful work. When I think about the students I graduated with nine years ago (!), I can’t think of one who I can say definitely is making over $100,000 a year (there are many celebrities who went to Oberlin, but I’m talking about people I knew personally). I’m sure there are some big earners among my classmates, but of the ones I’m still in touch with, none come immediately to mind.
Here’s a sampling of what my Oberlin classmates are up to: landscape architect, book publisher, therapist, karaoke band leader, research psychologist, stand-up comedian, radio producer (if you’re a public radio listener, odds are you hear Obies regularly), freelance writer, city councilman, documentary maker, and too many teachers to count.
They do cool stuff is what I’m saying, and I’m proud of them. They make enough money to live comfortably, and they make the world a better place. That’s the sort of person that is attracted to Oberlin, and the sort of person that Oberlin encourages its students to be.
Not for everyone, I know, but to most of us, the Oberlin education was well worth the money.