Choosing a college certainly matters monetarily — be it choosing between an elite private school and a top public institution or between a flagship state university and a regional public university — according to an extensive article in the current online edition of The Atlantic. Texas A&M University figures prominently — and positively — in the article in the prestigious magazine.
In the “Does It Matter Where You Go to College” article, the writer, Jordan Weissmann, leaves little doubt that he thinks it does matter, and he cites a current Bloomberg Businessweek/Payscale survey in which Texas A&M fares quite well in assessing a graduate’s “return on investment”— what the graduate earns compared to the cost of his or her college education. Weissmann also cites a 2009 scholarly paper by Texas A&M Economics Professor Mark Hoekstra, who conducted an experiment to, in his words, “solve the elite college question.”
Hoekstra, recounts the writer, compared the earnings of white, male students who had barely missed the admissions cut-off for an “unnamed public flagship university” to those of students who had barely been accepted.
“Although the subjects were roughly similar in academic terms, the differences in their future earnings were profound,” Weissmann states. “Enrolling at the flagship increased wages by 20 percent.” He included a chart that he notes “illustrated vividly” the divide.
While expressing pride that Texas A&M places high and prominently in surveys and assessments reflecting success in the job market and in the work place, officials there emphasize that a college education should be measured by more than just monetary success, beginning with the value of gaining a well-rounded educational experience that provides the basis for lifelong learning and success in all walks of life.
Also, they emphasize that regional universities — certainly including the other academic members of The Texas A&M University System — provide vital services to their students and their communities — and to the State of Texas. Texas A&M has cooperative programs with many of them, both within and outside the Texas A&M System, as well with private and public institutions throughout the state, as well as nationally and internationally. They also point out that Texas A&M has strong and productive ties with a host of Texas community colleges, including a special admissions-related partnership with Blinn College.
“We highly value our relationships with other institutions of higher learning – other flagships, regional universities and community colleges,” Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said. “We all have roles to carry out for the state of Texas in helping prepare the leaders of tomorrow and contributing to the discovery of new knowledge and various forms of service.”
He pointed out the regional universities in the Texas A&M System and elsewhere in the state offer “unique educational opportunities and value to largely under-served audiences,” adding that several of the schools have “distinct centers of excellence” in areas ranging from music to engineering and journalism.
Weissmann, referring to still another study focusing on Texas institutions, asks the question: “Shouldn’t individuals matter more than institutions? His answer: “They should and they do. Exceptional students at superior schools get the biggest lift.” In that study, he said professors at the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Tulsa and Cornell University tried to capture that dynamic in a new working paper that looks at the range of wages earned by students who went to college in Texas between 1996 and 2002.
The study looked at four sets of schools: University of Texas, Texas A&M, the rest of the state’s non-flagship colleges and its community colleges.
“Both Longhorns and Aggies earned more than their peers at less prestigious schools, even after controlling for other variables,” Weissmann observes in his assessment, adding “ the returns varied dramatically, depending on the student.”
“The typical A&M student does better than the typical UT-Austin student,” he notes, referring to graphs comparing the earnings curve of each flagship to Texas’ other four-year schools. “But exceptional students at UT-Austin beat everybody,” he adds.
In the study in which Bloomberg Businessweek teamed up with the firm Payscale, which collects self-reported earnings data from its users to estimate the return on investment for more than 500 colleges, Weissmann points out that Texas A&M students’ returns “maxed at the 99th percentile, where they made 22.8 percent more than similar non-flagship students.”
“We are obviously pleased that our graduates are in high demand and prove themselves in the workplace and are rewarded accordingly,” said Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin. “We are likewise delighted that so many of them continue to learn — and practice — the positive lessons of life in their professional careers and personal pursuits. We attribute that largely to the caliber of students who choose to attend Texas A&M and to the support they receive from our faculty, staff and network of former students.”
More about the Bloomberg Businessweek/Payscale survey is included in a Texas A&M article that also notes The Wall Street Journal ranked Texas A&M second nationally in a 2010 survey based on employers’ satisfaction with an institution’s graduates. Additionally, Texas A&M fared well in a recent New York Times listing of what business leaders worldwide say are the top institutions from which they recruit — and it ranked first in Texas.
In still another recent university announcement, it was reported that job opportunities for Texas A&M students and graduates continue to be even more promising — based on the increasing number of recruiters coming to the campus and the volume of job postings in the Texas A&M Career Center. A resurgence last year in demand for Aggie talent has continued this year, even exceeding that of last year, with a reported increase of 20 percent in job postings and 10 percent in active recruiting companies. Representatives of more than 3,000 companies will be seeking Texas A&M students this year, Career Center officials predict.
The complete The Atlantic article is available online.
Media contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services at (979) 845-4662