Data shows some degrees at Lehigh Valley colleges take grads over 100 years for return on investment

Written by on August 31, 2021

Data shows some degrees at Lehigh Valley colleges take grads over 100 years for return on investment

By Chloe Nouvelle

August 31, 2021

Photo by Pexels

BETHLEHEM, Pa. – A report from the center-left think tank Third Way shows some degrees at private Lehigh Valley colleges take graduates over a century to see a return on their investment.

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Using data from the U.S. Department of Education, Third Way looked at individual programs within colleges and calculated their “Price-to-Earnings Premium.” That is, the time it takes graduates to recoup the cost of their degree.  

Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow at Third Way, said college graduates in Pennsylvania generally are able to see a return on their investment quickly. 

“Public institutions, overall, are the most likely to pay off quickly and provide students the ability to recoup their educational costs quicker,” said Itzkowitz. 

But for some degrees at Lehigh Valley-based private, nonprofit colleges, students will never see an economic return on their investment.

The report calculates that it would take 144 years for a graduate of Moravian University (formerly Moravian College) to recoup the cost of a Sociology degree. 

At Muhlenberg College, the report found it would take 149 years for a graduate with a Political Science and Government degree to recoup their college costs. 

“If a high proportion of programs within a specific field of study leave the majority of graduates earning below someone with no college experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it provides no societal value as a whole,” Itzkowitz said. “However, it does indicate that the economic return on investment within certain fields may be limited.” 

Itzkowitz pointed out that taxpayers are invested in students’ degrees too.

The federal government provides more than $100 billion in subsidies every year to help students pay for higher education, he said, and Third Way’s report could help target federal aid more efficiently. 

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