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Graduates earn more money from schools others than UND, NDSU

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Graduates would earn higher salaries if they studied somewhere other than the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, according to college rankings calculated by the the Economist news magazine.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Graduates would earn higher salaries if they studied somewhere other than the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, according to college rankings calculated by the the Economist news magazine.

The Economist ranked colleges by comparing how much graduates earn at a college compared with what they might earn if they attended a similar college, based on overall earnings data from the institutions they studied.

NDSU ranked 1,025 and UND ranked 907 out of 1,275 four-year, nonvocational colleges examined by the Economist.

Graduates could make $1,910 more somewhere other than UND, and $2,825 more somewhere other than at NDSU. Among 11 regional colleges looked at, UND and NDSU rank toward the bottom of the list.

Only one local college earned graduates more money than at similar colleges: Concordia College in Moorhead. Graduates earned $384 more than they would at another institution.

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How UND ranks

The Economist's rankings should be taken "with at least a pinch of salt," UND spokesman Peter Johnson said.

"It's just difficult to really capture the full measure of any institution, whether the outcome is positive or negative," Johnson said.

What works well at UND, according to the Economist, is its location and fields of study, and Johnson agrees.

A salary in Grand Forks will get you more than that same salary in New York City, he said.

Also, UND has an array of high-earning programs, including engineering, nursing, doctors and lawyers, Johnson said. Aviation is another, but it takes graduates longer to get higher salaries.

Even though the Economist said graduates would make more money at a similar college than at UND, Johnson said UND is still a good place for students who prioritize high salaries.

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"Among our graduates, we have some very wealthy individuals," Johnson said.

Johnson cited Greg Page, a UND alumnus who is the executive director of Cargill, one of the "largest, privately owned businesses." Wealthy alumni have also gone on to Coca-Cola, Campbell Soup and professional sports teams, he said.

"I don't think any collegiate institution has more people in the National Hockey League than UND does," Johnson said.

Johnson said he doesn't personally believe students should base their decisions on where to attend college by where they will earn the most money because success isn't just financial.

"The ability to be successful in the long run is dependent on the education you got," Johnson said.

It's more about where students will find the "best opportunities," he said. For instance, if you want to study aviation, you can't do that anywhere else in the state other than UND, Johnson said.

Why Concordia?

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Karl Stumo, Concordia vice president for enrollment and marketing, credits the college's high graduation rates and its resources to prepare students for graduation. Students who finish in four years get in the field faster, working toward higher salaries, Stumo said.

Concordia's graduation rate is at 70 percent, compared with 55 percent at UND and 53 percent at NDSU, according to the Department of Education College Scorecard.

What works well at Concordia, according to the Economist, is the impact students' SAT scores have on their earnings. Students typically range 510 to 650 in reading and 480 to 630 in math.

The cons, however, are the college's available fields of study and racial diversity.

Part of the reason Stumo thinks Concordia was dinged for available fields of study is because it's a liberal arts college, which has "very strong programs that prepare students for careers, they just don't have the name of the career in the name of the major."

The major doesn't reflect that a graduate with an English degree could go on to become a college president, a high-paying career, Stumo said.

As for diversity, Stumo said it's an area "Concordia is very aware of" and takes seriously.

"There's opportunity for Concordia to improve in that area," Stumo said.

How it’s done

Rankings are based off 10-year earnings in 2011 for students who entered college in 2001.

The median earnings are based off the U.S. Department of Education's "college scorecard," but the Economist considered other factors to determine expected earnings: average SAT scores, sex ratio, race breakdown, college size, whether a university was public or private, subjects available to study, affiliation with religion, wealth of its state, prevailing wages in its city, whether it has a ranked undergraduate business school, percentage of students who receive federal Pell grants and whether it is a liberal arts college.

To "avoid penalizing universities that tend to attract students who are disinclined to pursue lucrative careers," the Economist considered appearances on the Princeton Review's top-20 lists.

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