By Karsten Strauss
A career in the arts is not generally thought of as a pathway to a great salary, job security and financial fortune. But where you go to school to get your degree can have an impact.
With that in mind, we looked to a recently published report from PayScale.com, a salary, benefits and compensation information company based in Seattle. According to the companies analysis of tuition costs, loan averages and 20-year return on investment (ROI), we have a clearer understanding of how much we can expect to earn over time after securing a degree at some top schools with healthy reputations in the arts.
One school that made a big showing in PayScale’s analysis is the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. The branch of UMass at Lowell claimed the top two spots on the overall list—first place went to the school’s In-State offering and second place to its out-of-state program, which costs more and provides a smaller ROI.
UMass-Lowell’s in-state program claims its graduates can expect a $596,000 return on investment over 20 years ($538,000 for out-of-staters) for an average 4-year tuition of $104,000 ($161,000 for out-of-state students), with most students who take loans to attend taking an average $28,500 loan. One downside, though, is the fact that UMass-Lowell has a 54% graduation rate—not a good statistic, and the lowest such percentage in the top 15.
In third place on PayScale’s ranking is The New School, a private research university in New York City. Tuition, at $246,000 for four years, is considerably higher than UMass, and it claims its graduates can expect to make $517,000 in returns on their investment. The average loan taken by students there is $38,000 and the graduation rate – also not great – stands at 60%, which is second-lowest among the top 15.
Where it might beat UMass is in location: though it is largely a matter of opinion, comparing New York City to Lowell, Massachusetts, offers a stark contrast in municipalities and lifestyle.
Loyola Marymount comes in fourth in this ranking, claiming a $509,000 ROI for a $233,000 four-year education. The graduation rate for the Los Angeles-based school stands at 78% and the students who take loans usually go into debt to the tune of $32,500.
One element to these analyses that should be taken into account is breakdown of ROI figures claimed by the schools. Dividing the potential ROI numbers by the number of years the study is working with results in some figures that might not be entirely inspiring. The In-State program at UMass-Lowell, for instance, claims $596,000 in returns on the investment in the art degree it offers. Divide by 20 and you come to $29,800 per year. Its not bad. Not great, but not bad.
These estimates are, we must remember, merely guidelines for thinking about the power a school has help students make money in the arts in the future. The lion-share of the work is the responsibility of the students themselves, to whom nothing will be simply handed.