The University of South Florida ranks No. 584 on degree program return on investment, out of 1,248 colleges and universities polled, according to survey results recently released by PayScale.com.
PayScale.com describes itself as “a market leader in global online compensation data.” It compiles information from employers to “provide an immediate and precise snapshot of the job market.” It uses a patent-pending profiling system to index employee characteristics across industries, according to the site.
USF falls on the list between St. Olaf College in Minnesota and the School of Visual Arts, NYC. The numbers for USF include those paying in-state tuition for a bachelor’s degree. It lists the average 2011 cost of attendance as $83,690, and the 30-year net return on investment as $78,960, with an annual ROI of 6.1 percent.
According to the rankings, 96 percent of in-state students receive financial aid, at an average amount of $6,323. With aid, the 30-year ROI is $93,320, with an annual ROI of 7.3 percent.
The salary range for those with a bachelor’s degree from USF is $30,800 to $92,403. St. Petersburg residents with USF degrees have average salaries between $31,695 and $90,913.
USF is basically right in the middle of the rankings. No. 1 is a small private science-focused college in California—Harvey Mudd College—and No. 1,248 is the Savannah College of Art and Design.
The report looked only at employees with a bachelor’s degree. Graduates with advanced degrees—a master’s degree, M.B.A., Ph.D., etc.—were not included. It looked only at those in fields that do not require advanced degrees (leaving out fields like law or medicine). The report includes only graduates who are working full-time, paid with an hourly wage or annual salary.
The site specifies in its methodology that it does not include those who are self-employed, project or contract-based, like project-based graphic designers, small business owners or novelists.
The methodology doesn’t specify whether the graduates included in the results are working in a field related to the bachelor’s degrees that they obtained—only that they are working. This isn’t necessarily a fault of the survey—PayScale.com, an organization concerned with salary data, is intending to look at the end result. It is looking at the outcome, not the opportunities it takes to get there.
While the eight Ivy League schools maintain spots in the top 35 for 30-year ROI, the results listed for USF appear reasonable to a large public research institution that has been increasingly distinguishing itself in the STEM fields and has an annual economic impact of $3.7 billion.
However, a school’s rankings alone don’t mean much unless students capitalize on the opportunities presented. Comments on PayScale’s survey point to successful, gainfully employed alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design, students from the lowest ranked school who did well because they made the most of opportunities available—knowledgeable professors, internship opportunities, university career centers, etc. ROI aside, students often get out of an education what they put into it.