15 public four-year colleges with high graduation leading to high incomes

As students weigh the costs and benefits of higher education, it’s especially important to find schools that can offer them the best possible outcomes. Here are 15 public, predominantly four-year-degree-granting institutions of higher education that fall in the top 10 percent of all four-year schools on graduation rate and median earnings.

Institution Median Earnings of Students, 10 Years After Entering the School 150 Percent Completion Rate
College of William and Mary $56,400 89.9%
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus $74,000 80.7%
Rutgers University-New Brunswick $54,800 79.5%
SUNY at Binghamton $58,400 80.1%
The College of New Jersey $56,800 85.7%
University of California-Berkeley $62,700 90.9%
University of California-Davis $57,100 81.3%
University of California-Irvine $55,800 85.7%
University of California-Los Angeles $59,200 90.9%
University of California-San Diego $59,600 86.0%
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign $56,600 83.9%
University of Maryland-College Park $59,100 83.1%
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor $57,900 90.3%
University of Virginia-Main Campus $58,600 93.2%
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University $57,900 82.6%

This list includes schools that fall in the top 10 percent of predominantly four-year-degree-granting schools for 1) completion within 150% of time for first-time, full-time students; and 2) median positive earnings of students who attended the school, measured 10 years after they began. Completion rates are calculated as two-year rolling averages; and percentiles are calculated excluding schools with an n-size of 30 or fewer students and schools in territories. Percentiles were calculated excluding cell sizes less than 30, schools with zero undergraduate degree-seeking students, schools not currently operating, and schools in territories


  1. This is extremely helpful information! Finally its available.
    I have too many friends who go to college expecting to earn a better living than their parents, after 6-8 years of grueling studies, hard work supporting themselves during that time, the counsellors guiding them to study whatever they enjoy, they end up coming to the work force ill prepared. They find out their degree is useless since there are few jobs in the area they have studied. Many of these friends have ended up creating a lack luster career out of the work they did to support themselves while paying for college.
    I have long wished for those of us who do not have the luxury of simply getting a college degree for the sake of one, such data would help guide us into a decent career.

  2. Thanks for making all this data available. It’s a great start, and can be refined as it is used. Don’t worry about critics who are either pushing an anti-administration agenda or reflecting the narrow interest of a particular institution. One thing the data shows is that we can do much better job of preparing students for remunerative careers while still giving them a broad, liberal arts education. Some schools are succeeding at doing this – we need to figure out what they are doing and share that knowledge.

  3. I think the idea of a scorecard or anything that resembles rankings hurts colleges overall. People from all walks of life attend many types of colleges for many different reasons. The focus of the scorecard is narrow in scope and there are existing services already in existence.
    Though I am happy with the current emphasis on the importance and value of community colleges from the Obama Administration, rating or ranking them is unnecessary. Comparisons are fine as long as judgements are left out ,”best or worst”. Just post the information and let the reader come to his/her own conclusion. Most people who attend community and/or state colleges, attend moreso due to proximity and program availability vice prestige and price because community colleges are already the most affordable choice. I guarantee a person will find a suitable program at local community college bar all other factors. More than likely, a person will not relocate to attend another community/state college at least for the first 2 years of study due to life reasons like job and family (placebound).
    If the aim of the scorecard, was to help people become aware colleges, like some of for-profit institutions or others who may have mishandled funds or, then do that. But don’t make the whole system suffer due to the actions of a few.

  4. This information is rather misleading as earnings vary widely according to discipline while the relative distribution of graduates in the various disciplines would also vary significantly among the colleges represented here.

  5. To those who are critical because of the variance in cost of living across various regions of the country, who says that students stay around the university permanently? If you’ve ever tracked graduates of universities, they are generally mobile, so just because they attended a particular university does not mean that they settle around that university, especially after ten years.

    In addition, this is not a one size fits all. Note the title of this rating, “15 public four year colleges.” So why is this considered careless? I think I would want to know how four year publics across the country stack up; just like I would want to know how elite privates, community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, etc. If someone is doing a better job in a certain classification, then that is what should be publicized. Everyone becomes more informed then, even the low scoring institutions.

  6. To those who are speaking about cost of living- where you go to school does not necessarily determine where you will live after graduating. Ex: I went to a school on this list that is in a high cost of living area. I graduated in 2013 after 4 years. I ended up moving to a lower cost of living area after graduating, BUT I am still at that salary threshold. Obviously this is not true for everyone, but the article doesn’t speak to where students end up after graduating, so adjusting for cost of living in the school’s area wouldn’t necessarily make sense.

  7. WHY NOT? Use the data to weed out the colleges that are not worth the cost.

    If the data is available let us use it to make life judgements.

    Who are you protecting?

    • It may not be a factor here. Students move away from their schools – back home or elsewhere or even stay local. It might all be a wash in the end.

    • Information on salaries for different majors is available elsewhere. Relative salaries (among majors) are not likely to depend significantly based on which of these schools a person attended, so it is not really important to include. That is not the subject of this article.

  8. HI. This is very good data: it says that really bright students (ck out who o to these colleges) earn good incomes. I must admit that I am shocked! By the way, where are the IQ and other adjustments to really look at such data? Did these grads earn back their 4 years of lost income and the cost of the degree? It hurts to see our government be so careless with data and implications.

    • You’d have to look at the full study to determine the other factors that were considered. However, 4 years of “lost income” might not be made up in 10 years but so what?

      • This article is not about whether you should go to college, so adjusting for income lost in 4 years does not matter. They are all 4-year schools so that does not differ among these schools. This article is presumably about the value of colleges with respect to future earnings and job prospects determined by what is surely a complex formula. This addresses the question of which state schools (presumably less expensive than private schools) have a good track record of graduating students and having those students get jobs or accepted in graduate school.

  9. Could you please adjust these salaries/incomes for cost of living. They are very skewed to where a person lives. Green Bay Wisconsin doesn’t cost the same as San Francisco.

    • At first, normalizing the data makes sense, but may be very complicated since many students don’t go or stay in a school that is in their current residency state. I went to GA Tech, and I can identify classmates in every single state and territory; therefore, cost of living does not apply to the average salary. Unless we really complicate the query by providing and adjustment percentile for each state of employment and then aggregate the data back to the college for each student; and then we are entering into the realm of individual’s data… Much simpler to assume that the distribution of students attending each state from any school is about the same, and then that would cancel the need for normalizing.

    • You assume that ALL graduates stay within the DC area when they graduate when that is simply not the case. What if students moved to an area with a lower cost-of-living after they graduated?

    • There’s not data about where they live, so we can’t know if it needs adjusting. I think we really need to look at the study – not a simple illustration of the highlights – to properly critique it. It’s all public info, so just look it up

  10. Love the site. Unfortunately the links under “institution” aren’t able to resolve the query-string argument. Probably a simple error that will be easy to fix. Great work overall!

  11. President Obama revealed his administration’s new “College Scorecard” website on Saturday. Extolling its virtues, to exactly whom was he speaking? Certainly not to all Americans. There are no statistics shown for those citizens who make over the $48,000 annual income limit. In other words, this site reflects reality only for those who expect to receive some form financial assistance. It has no regard, indeed this administration seems to have no regard, for those many Americans who have worked one, two or possibly three jobs in order to earn an income that may provide some semblance of personal financial independence. What would the rankings be if the statistic-skewing subsidies were omitted? They would not resemble the reality of the naturally occurring order.

    I worked and paid for my tuition at a four year university with no help from parents and very little from the government. I utilized a Basic Educational Opportunity Grant which I repaid, with interest, within the original required payment schedule. If education subsidies are given and then required to be re-paid (notwithstanding the administration’s efforts to forgive all college loan debt), then I could be on board with such a program, but I don’t see that these subsidies reflect much of that scenario.

    This website is simply more evidence of the current administration’s socialistic perspective that the government rather than the individual exists to provide everything one may need or want from the cradle to the grave. It undercuts the principle of rewarding effort in order to achieve life’s benefits. It provides information only for, and thereby promotes, an enabling government-dependent society. As usual, if one isn’t part of the nearly half of all Americans who accept some form of government assistance, then this site is not for you. It was mind- boggling to see Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Stanford and Yale on the list of colleges that are “affordable”…well, only if the taxpayer and school systems subsidize tuition so that it will be that way.

    • Agreed! This doesn’t help the vast majority of people I know whose household incomes fall between the $48,000 and $100,000 range. We are the ones who don’t get the financial aid that makes college affordable. Please redo this otherwise helpful website to provide a more realistic view for incomes above the poverty line!

    • Where do you get that this has anything to do with income prior to entering school / recipients of financial aid? It says nothing about that. It’s about correlations between high graduation rates and income levels (AFTER graduation).

  12. This web site is right up there with useless. Where are the names of the schools that do not graduate their students on time, over charge for their limited degrees, provide little assistance in the job market, and have former students with military service on the unemployment lines.
    In addition, lists are so limited as to provide little value in choosing a school. Also, the low cost for student subsidies is of no value to a middle class family seeking a quality school for their children. Clearly, the lobbying of the universities won. They must be drinking a toast to their protesting skills and the cowardice of implementing big ideas.

  13. I am unclear how to compare multiple schools on a SINGLE screen, and I tried for a half hour. Either explain how to do this, or admit that it cannot be done.

    An excellent first attempt, and let’s hope it gets used.

  14. In most of these cases the school’s success rate has little to do with the school and more to do with its location,the high quality of its students, or the predominance among its grads of particular majors. As everyone knows there’s a big difference between correlation, measured here, and causality which is the imputed claim of this site. What a disappointment.

    • Jack – everything you list – location, quality of students, etc – has to do with the school. There’s no way to get at causality, as you must know. Correlation is the only way to infer it. I think this info is useful as do the really smart people who put it together.

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