Did You Know? How North Carolina’s Institutions Rank Among the Nation’s Top Colleges | Beaufort County Now | How do North Carolina’s colleges rank amongst the nation’s top colleges? Do going to these schools make a big difference in earnings after graduation?

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of The James G. Martin Center. The authors of this post are Braden Colegrove and Richard K. Vedder.

    How do North Carolina's colleges rank amongst the nation's top colleges? Do going to these schools make a big difference in earnings after graduation? Using both Forbes and the Wall Street Journal rankings of the top American schools, four schools in North Carolina are ranked in the top 100. Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Davidson, and Wake Forest. (The average state only has two top schools). The fifth-ranked school would be NC State; Forbes has them at 79 and the Wall Street Journal ranks them 112. We will concentrate here on the consistently top four North Carolina-ranked schools.

    Let's look at some of the graduate earnings data comparing these schools to four schools not unambiguously in the top 100: NC State, Appalachian State, UNC Wilmington, and Elon University. The top four schools' graduates have an average earning of $52,228, while the four lower-ranked schools have an average earning of $38,778 (weighting each school equally). So, the disparity between these two sets of schools is noticeable-the allegedly better schools averaged nearly 35 percent higher earnings.

    To be sure, there are other big differences between the two sets of schools: NC State and Appalachian State serve around 20,000 students each at a far lower sticker price than schools like Davidson and Wake Forest and admit students probably with lower perceived academic promise based on high school grades, test scores, and teacher recommendations.

    Of course, the major field of study plays a significant role in indicating how much graduates will make, so let's look at how some of these earnings by major match up. For instance, math majors at UNC-Chapel Hill make $48,189 on average while math majors at UNC Wilmington average $38,297. Again, the difference in earnings is meaningful but not earth-shaking. However, compare math majors at Duke and NC State: the average math major at Duke makes $81,333 (!) after graduation, compared with just $28,598 at NC State. For English majors, however, the disparity is dramatically less: the average earnings for English is $38,289 at Duke and $30,771 at NC State. This clearly demonstrates that both which major and which school students choose have a huge impact on earnings.

    Huge caveats, however, are in order. The data from the U.S. Department of Education are of so-so quality. Kids not getting any federal student aid are excluded from the sample, a good number we suspect at some of the tonier private schools. Hence interschool comparisons may be distorted. Moreover, the sample size for earnings data is often very small. More fundamentally, there is more to life than just earnings.

    Two kids falling in love and ultimately marrying who attended Appalachian State might have on balance a more satisfying college experience than two nerdy introverts making twice as much who went to Duke or Wake Forest. There is a consumption as well as an investment dimension to higher education. Bottom line: school choice and majors matter a good deal, but that is not the whole picture.

    Braden Colegrove is an undergraduate economics major at Ohio University, where he has studied with Richard Vedder, Distinguished Professor of Economics Emeritus.
Go Back


Latest Op-Ed & Politics

Legislative defendants in North Carolina’s redistricting lawsuits are opposing efforts to have Supreme Court Justice Phil Berger Jr. disqualified from the case.
Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, who was held hostage on Saturday for 10 hours along with three of his congregants, credited regular active-shooter training with saving lives.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) went off on the GOP and moderate Democrat senators who are standing in the way of the Democrats’ radical voting agenda, claiming opponents of the legislation and a change to filibuster rules are “dishonoring” the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
If you were tasked with organizing a system of publicly funded schools, how would you do it?
Dallas Woodhouse, Carolina Journal investigative journalist, discusses his reporting at ExtremeInjustice.com on a controversial case involving the N.C. Supreme Court and two challenged state constitutional amendments.
CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala appeared to slam the Democrats’ base during a CNN segment on Monday, saying that the party had “bad followers.”
Daily Wire editor emeritus Ben Shapiro joined “Fox & Friends” Friday to discuss The Daily Wire’s win over the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private businesses.


In his 1961 short story “Harrison Bergeron,” author Kurt Vonnegut mused about a future in which equality of outcomes is not only required, but enforced.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) knocked Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts for siding with the liberal justices to allow a vaccine mandate for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.
Early reports said No. 1 tennis player in the world Novak Djokovic had his visa canceled by Australian authorities after receiving a medical exemption because he “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia.”
Politicos and journalists on social media erupted in commentary on Thursday after the Supreme Court blocked a Biden administration mandate that would have forced private businesses with at least 100 employees to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing.
Following news that the Biden administration has decided to withdraw its emergency vaccine mandate on private businesses, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released the following statement
A pair of orders from the N.C. Supreme Court Monday officially rejected requests from the state’s sheriffs, district attorneys, and Superior Court clerks to reopen candidate filing as soon as possible.
Dairy Farmers of America Represents More Than 12,500 Family Farmers in North Carolina and Across the USA
A judge in Illinois tossed a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case for an 18-year-old male facing a mandatory minimum of four years at sentencing after hearing arguments on two post-trial motions.
I see that Ernie had a fund raiser in Bath Saturday night that was well attended by his staff and a few other people.


Back to Top