College Demographics

by MooshiMooshi

Since we all love to talk about college issues, here is an article from Inside Higher Ed on the “dirty little secrets of higher education”. Most of these are not secrets at all to anyone who is following higher education. But they all make good discussion starter points, so have fun with them. Some of my faves
4-year institutions are graduating a third more women than men; community colleges, 50 percent more.

Over a quarter of students at 4-year institutions live with their parents

Less than 20 percent of colleges and universities admit less than 50 percent of applicants – and just 46 admit less than 20 percent.

Do any of these seem surprising to you, or is it all old news?

49 thoughts on “College Demographics

  1. Yeah, most of that is pretty well-known to the group here. You only have to sit through one admissions presentation to know they are selling the experience more than the education.

  2. An online tool created by the University of Texas system uses IRS records to track the median earnings of UT graduates working full-time by degree level in 300 areas of study one, five and 10 years after graduation. It reveals the extent to which earnings vary by major and institution and also reports that wages hover around $60,000 10 years after graduation.

    That seems shockingly low.

  3. “It reveals the extent to which earnings vary by major and institution and also reports that wages hover around $60,000 10 years after graduation.”

    I believe it. A quick google search tells me that a Houston teacher with 10 years experience makes $60k. The average attorney salary in Sioux Falls, SD is $88K. The national average salary for an RN is $50k.

    I got married a few years after college. We moved a bunch while DH was moving up the chain. Ten years after college I barely made more than when I graduated. Once we settled long term my salary was able to shoot up significantly.

  4. This is the one that surprised me:

    “Three-fifths of college graduates would change majors if they were starting over (30 percent for better job opportunities; 26 percent to pursue their passion).”

    The surprise is that the number of people who regret getting a “practical” degree is almost as high as those who regret following their “passion.” We tend to hear only about the latter category.

    I also think the article gives short shrift to the credentialing aspect. Sure, they mention it in the last section, but they completely ignore it in the discussion about the monetary value of a college education. IMO a big part of the reason that college grads don’t make that much more than HS grads is how many jobs now require a college degree as a sorting mechanism, even though the job itself doesn’t require it. I mean, back in the ’50s and ’60s, my Grandpa was a well-paid designer/draftsman with GE with only a HS education. The kinds of jobs that required college degrees were generally higher-paid options, like engineer, doctor, lawyer, banker, etc. Now even the law firm receptionist job paying $22K/yr requires a college degree. Unfortunately, that means that the less the degree is worth in terms of salary, the more critical it is to getting *any* kind of job with job security and benefits and all that.

  5. The national average salary for an RN is $50k.

    The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that between May 2017 and May 2018, registered nurses brought in a median salary of $71,730 per year

  6. “Now even the law firm receptionist job paying $22K/yr requires a college degree. ”

    Yeah, I’ve seen many examples of this. OTOH, an admin. asst. at a NYC consulting firm with 20 years experience and no degree may be making $100-150k.

  7. Rhett: remember that most of TX is very low COL, too

    If the COL is lower and as a result the salaries are also lower then you’re not really any better off, are you?

  8. For someone making $180k as a PM relocating from Mountainview to Boise or Houston how likely is it then when they get laid off and go looking for a new job in Houston it pays $90k?

  9. I always find the gender divide interesting. Not that more women are getting degrees than men, that’s been happening for a while.

    But that 4-year institutions are graduating a third more women than men (which means women are getting 56-57% of the degrees); community colleges, 50 percent more. (which means women are getting 60% of the degrees).

    I wonder if those %s hold true for the more selective schools.

    I also wonder what that means for society and the work world longer term.

  10. “If the COL is lower and as a result the salaries are also lower then you’re not really any better off, are you?”

    I’m not following. You were shocked that the median salary for college grads from the UT system was $60K after 10 years. I pointed out that TX has LCOL and no state income tax, so that $60K goes a lot further in TX than elsewhere, so it’s not exactly shockingly low when it comes to lifestyle and purchasing power. So why wouldn’t you be better off than someone who didn’t go to college?

    IDK what the median salary is for non-college-grads in TX; there’s a lot of well-paid oil-and-gas work, but there is also a lot of poverty, and the oil-and-gas work tends to be very cyclical. If the median income for non-college-grads is $50K/yr, then yeah, you’re probably not getting a good return on your investment (although IIRC, the UT system is pretty affordable — current tuition is $5-10K depending on which school, so if you can live at home and go to UT-Permian Basin, you can get by cheaply). But if the median income for non-college-grads is $20K or $30K, then I’d call that a worthwhile investment.

  11. I don’t think college to noncollege grads or men to women is an optimal comparison.
    Men are still the bulk of power line repairers, electricians, plumbers and firefighters, which pay as well as or better than female-dominated jobs like teaching or social work that require a college degree.

  12. I know many families where the non-college educated husband working as an operator at the local chemical plant makes much more than his college educated wife working a salaried job in A/P.

  13. I’m not following.

    People talk about moving someplace with a low cost of living. That’s great if the cost of living is low but salaries are high. If the cost of living is low and salaries are commensurately lower than there really isn’t a benefit.

  14. WCE.

    Plumbers made a median salary of $55,160 in 2019.

    The national average public school teacher salary for 2017-18 was $60,477—

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for all social workers in the U.S. as of May 2019 was $61,230, while the average among the top 10 percent was $90,800.

    The median annual wage for electricians was $56,180 in May 2019.

  15. I am going to bring another article into the mix because it explains something that many people outside of academia don’t understand : liberal arts programs are cheaper to run than the technical/engineering/vocational programs that mant people say we should be emphasizing.
    This article focuses on the reality that vocational programs are much more expensive to run in community colleges than GenEd courses, but this is true at the 4 year level as well – STEM and healthcare majors cost more and are often money losers. Therefore, universities as well as community colleges have a financial incentive to keep those pesky liberal arts courses and majors around, even if students would be better served by (as in this case), programs in automotive tech.

  16. To Rhett’s point – when I was in law school I interviewed at a couple of firms in Burlington, VT and Manchester, NH. The starting salary in Boston biglaw at the time was $125K. The starting salary at the VT and NH jobs (both the biggest firms in the state) was about $40 or $45K. I would guess that the total COL difference was not commensurate with the difference in salary.

  17. Rhett, once people have accumulated a bit of wealth and are either living off or supplementing their salary with investment returns, the low COL equation gets compelling. Or if they are getting a defined benefit, pension, disability payment, or other government or corporate payment. These don’t change based on your location

  18. “An online tool created by the University of Texas system uses IRS records to track the median earnings of UT graduates working full-time by degree level in 300 areas of study one, five and 10 years after graduation.”

    I haven’t read the linked article yet, but I suspect that the tool is similar to (or perhaps is the same as) one I’ve read about that also uses IRS data, but is limited to those who, IIRC, received federal aid in the form of loans, grants, and work study.

    Graduates who didn’t qualify for need-based aid would not be included.

  19. “If the cost of living is low and salaries are commensurately lower than there really isn’t a benefit.”

    What Mafalda said.

    If you’re in a high COL area and your savings and asset accumulation rates are commensurate with the COL, then the benefit to moving to a low COL will increase with time spent at high COL area.

    We see something like that all the time here. While COL is not low, salaries tend to be, so outsiders regularly come in and raise the COL.

  20. I relocated to Tampa/St Pete with my NY salary. I was there for 8 months and it was the first time I ever felt like I didn’t have to worry abut money. They offered me a full time job because they wanted me to stay instead of returning to NY. They would have kept me at the same salary, but they admitted that I probably wouldn’t receive a raise for five years. It was a great place to visit, but I was happy to return to NY.

  21. Hi everyone. Just got internet restored. We are very lucky to have power. : ) Hope Becky and others are doing ok.

  22. We are happy with our relocation. We had a good time as apartment dwellers and as DINKs but once the kids came housing and the commute were two of the biggest issues. I am thinking about a bad weather stretch like this week, my commute would have been awful. I probably would have quit had we stayed.

  23. “People talk about moving someplace with a low cost of living. That’s great if the cost of living is low but salaries are high. If the cost of living is low and salaries are commensurately lower than there really isn’t a benefit.”

    OK, so we were talking at cross-purposes. I was focused on the article, which talks about the additional value you get from having a college degree; you’re talking about the relative benefits of HCOL vs. LCOL.

    Overall, I have been extremely lucky with geographic arbitrage since I moved back here. When I first moved to my current firm, I was still living in Baltimore, so I got a big raise with the same reasonable COL (but I paid for it with a horrible commute). When we moved from the DC area to CO, I took over a 30% paycut, which sucked. We were fine, because it was still a professional salary, and DH got a raise out of it, but it sure was annoying. But moving back, now, that’s where things started to pay off. My firm pays the same salary in all offices* — and my office probably has the lowest COL of all. Even better, my practice is almost entirely federal, which shields me from the lower rates many people have to agree to for local work (I feel really bad for our Boston guys, because they are definitely HCOL, and yet the local rates there are pretty much the worst of any of our offices). So since we moved back here c. 2004, I have always been paid the same as anyone else with my numbers in any office, but I get to live in a nice area with lower costs, bigger yards, and fewer cars. Heh heh heh.

    *I have periodically heard grumblings from people in one of the VHCOL areas saying that they need a COL subsidy. Then all the other people in the other VHCOL areas chime in saying they want one too, and it turns out it’s basically everyone but us, so we just stay quiet until the moment passes. ;-)

  24. Houston – glad to hear you had power.

    It’s chilly but sunny here. It’s nice to be able to walk outside after all the rain.

  25. I’ll offer a bit of a counter to some assertions from the OP article:

    “Four-year institutions are not currently incentivized to enroll more low-income [and community college transfer] students.”

    A lot of college ratings have been getting a bad rap, but many of them have begun using %age of Pell Grant students as a ratings criterion.

    “Nor are these institutions under much pressure to reduce equity gaps in high-demand majors such as accounting, computer science, engineering and nursing.”

    Locally, there appears to be a connection between the demand for teachers and support for that program at flagship U, as well as between shortage of MDs and support for flagship med school.

  26. I think the keyword is “equity gap”. They are saying there isn’t much pressure to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups in high demand majors like accounting and computer science.

  27. Mooshi, from your posting history, as well as what I’ve read over at CC, I’m under the impression that computer science departments are having a hard time staffing their faculties and are not close to being able to meet demand. I’m wondering how much bandwidth those departments have to spend on things like decreasing the equity gap as opposed to just meeting demand.

    I have no clue what things are like in accounting.

  28. After losing power a second time, it is back on. Unfortunately, we are without water. Whenever it comes back on we will be under a boil order, which is annoying. We are still waiting to get hear back from the plumber about replacing the tankless water heater, which cracked while we were without power for the first stretch. I’m hearing from neighbors that have more catastrophic plumbing problems that they’ve got appointments with plumbers for a few days out. This is going to a problem because one family member has a zoom interview Friday and would ideally like to shower first.

    And we just lost power again…

  29. Becky and Houston, I hope you get back to ‘normal’ soon, even if a pandemic ‘normal.’

    I wonder if WFI’s DH is getting a lot of calls.

  30. “just 46 admit less than 20 percent.”

    This raised my eyebrows a bit. I’m a bit skeptical, but wouldn’t be very surprised if it turned out to be true.

    I think for HS class of 2021 it might be higher. HSS are getting a lot of applications this year.

    What schools do you think admit less than 20%? One that surprised me a little is Georgia Tech.

    I wonder if the 46 includes schools like Curtis, Colburn, and Julliard.

  31. Georgia Tech is pretty selective. MIT of the South perhaps ? I know students who have gone there.

    IMO, the equity gap starts much earlier than college. The students aspire to certain professions but without the high school classes that will put them on a path and keep the door open to certain majors it’s difficult. I see this aspect of guidance missing. Another aspect is social capital and the role of the family and community in education.

  32. 46 schools admit less than 20%
    Here is the list, BUT it is from 2019 so it is already out of date . To compare 2019 to 2021 is to compare apples to oranges. Nothing is the same for the HSS

    The reason is stuff like this:
    As the deadline for applying to the Class of 2025 closed on Jan. 15, a total of 17,392 prospective students applied for admission — a remarkable 102.6% increase over the previous year. This record year also includes major growth in applications from students of color, students in the Southeast, and those hailing from countries outside of the United States. An early data review also points to an overall increase in the academic quality of applications compared to previous years.
    For a sense of scale, the previous application record was set in 2019, when Colgate received 9,951 applications for the Class of 2023.

    Finn is correct that the list of schools that admit less than 20% will grow since they are flooded with applications.

    I’ve been sitting with DD this week for some of her virtual college tours/information sessions this week since it is the winter break.She is interested in big schools so we toured Miami, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland, Northwestern, etc. Prior to 2020, she would have been accepted to Maryland and Wisconsin. She would have considered Miami as a safety, but now all bets are off because schools are flooded with applicants. The algorithms that they built and tweaked for years don’t work. She might have applied to 10 schools, but I bet she will apply to at least 15 if she doesn’t decide on a school in the early process.

  33. Becky, Houston and other posters in Texas, I hope the services are restored soon for electricity, water etc. We have lost power during ice storms and it is more challenging (in our experience) to remain at home with no power in the cold.The forecast for this weekend looks better, so I hope everything clears up soon.

  34. I think in the absence of school guidance counselors as a filtering mechanism, students are applying all over the place. When it comes down to it, there may be really four or five schools that an applicant would seriously consider attending.

  35. The HSS that are being flooded with applications don’t offer merit aid. Are there so many families out there who are willing and able to pay upwards of $80,000 a year for their kid to go to college? Or are most of these kids hoping they’ll get need-based aid, even if their families are solidly MC or even UMC?

  36. NoB, I had the same question, but there seem to be plenty of people that are willing and able to pay the full ride based on the number of early decision applicants. I read two books about varsity blues scandal and one thing was clear and that many people have big bucks to pay full freight. Also, one of my local friends pointed out that this virus is really just another example of the rich get richer because she said that she was shocked when she looked at the balances in her 529 and personal investment accounts at year end 2020. She has three kids and the oldest is a junior in HS. She said between the money they saved by doing almost nothing in 2020 and investment earnings – they have more than enough to pay for a private college for the oldest. For example, she saved the $ for three sleep away camp tuitions, no extra clothing for 3 kids, no plane fares to Florida to see grandma, no commute to Manhattan for both parents, NO childcare (!!) and no meals out. She told me that they analyzed their credit card bills and they saved close to $100,000 just due to the virus. She took it a step further and analyzed how much that money earned by investing it instead of spending it. The point is that she can’t be the only person that is goign to realize that they suddenly have a lot more money in their investment accounts that might be redirected to college tuition.

  37. “she can’t be the only person that is goign to realize that they suddenly have a lot more money in their investment accounts that might be redirected to …”

    Yes, exactly. In our case we will be able to accelerate some of the major home upkeep projects (new windows, big re-dos of kitchen & master bath, lesser re-dos of kids’ bath, replacement of carpet throughout, fresh paint throughout) which we had been planning to do over the next ~4yrs so we’d be done around when I’m planning to retire. Now it looks like we can get that work done in 21 and 22 (assuming contractors are available).

  38. (Bloomberg) SATs, Once Hailed as Ivy League Equalizers, Fall From Favor
    SATs, Once Hailed as Ivy League Equalizers, Fall From Favor
    2021-02-17 13:00:00.6 GMT

    By Janet Lorin
    (Bloomberg) — In this strange college admissions season,
    fewer high schoolers are turning in that dreaded number, their
    SAT score.
    This year, only 44% submitted SAT or ACT entrance exam
    results with their Common Application, which lets students apply
    to many schools at once. That’s down from 77% in the 2019-2020
    season. Schools are suspending required testing because of the
    While many students are delighted, some counselors worry
    that the scarcity of scores could add to growing inequality in
    American higher education.
    The reason: Wealthier students can game more subjective
    measures. They can hire consultants to sharpen their essays, and
    their school counselors tend to have the time and expertise to
    write recommendations that will catch an admissions officer’s
    Ayah Fakhy, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants in Los
    Angeles, registered for at least two SAT tests in August and the
    fall of 2020. But they were canceled because of site closings.
    Now, the 17-year-old worries that she’ll be at a
    disadvantage to classmates who drove — or even flew — to open
    test centers.
    “It frightened me,” said Fakhy, whose parents never
    attended college. “I knew I’d have to make the other parts of
    the application stand out.”
    That concern has merit, according to Bob Sweeney, who works
    with a Brooklyn college access program that each year helps
    about 20 senior girls, most of whom are the first in their
    families to attend college.
    “They’re at a disadvantage if there isn’t someone who can
    advocate for them,” said Sweeney, a former college counselor at
    Mamaroneck High School in Westchester.
    But testing critics say the exams — established in the
    early 20th Century to promote meritocracy — have instead long
    been biased against poor students and members of
    underrepresented minority groups.
    Ditching them will improve race, gender and income
    diversity, said Bob Schaeffer, interim executive director of
    FairTest, a nonprofit that has long pushed to eliminate the exam
    requirement. More than 1,300 schools have made SATs and ACTs
    optional for at least the current junior class, according to
    Read more: A QuickTake on college admissions
    “It’s remarkable how many schools found the experience good
    enough to say ‘Let’s do it again,’” Schaeffer said of those
    dropping the requirement.
    Representatives of the SAT and the ACT say the test remains
    essential. Zach Goldberg, a spokesman for the College Board,
    which administers the SAT, said the absence of common yardsticks
    will increase reliance on grades; well-off schools are more
    likely to inflate grades, he said.
    In a Kaplan Test Prep survey of almost 400 college
    admissions officers, only 9% required standardized test scores
    this year. But there’s a divide among those who are sending them
    anyway, according Eric Waldo, a vice president at the Common
    App, which is used at more than 900 colleges.

    Forty-nine percent of students whose parents earned at least a
    bachelor’s degree provided test results, compared with 79% the
    previous year. Among those families who reported that neither of
    their parents earned at least a bachelor’s degree, only 31% sent
    scores, down from 71%. Wealthier students were also more likely
    to submit results, as were White and Asian students.
    Shawn Babitsky, the son of a single mother who works as a
    nurse’s aide and an Uber driver, won’t be sending scores to
    Brown, Northwestern and other universities. The 17-year-old,
    whose family moved from Moscow when he was 2, said he couldn’t
    take the SAT after his sessions were canceled four times.
    Like Fakhy, the daughter of Moroccan immigrants, Babitsky
    is getting help from College Match Los Angeles, which works with
    talented applicants from low-income families. He’ll be competing
    with students from wealthier families who knew to start much
    “No one told me to start thinking about the SAT sophomore
    year,” said Babitsky, who would like to study molecular biology.
    “If I had, then maybe I could have had a test score. I wish I
    had been able to submit test scores.”

    To contact the reporter on this story:
    Janet Lorin in New York at
    To contact the editors responsible for this story:
    Sam Mamudi at
    John Hechinger, Dan Reichl

  39. Finn, I’ve never heard of some of these schools so I wonder how some of these lists are formulated. I think the list for the class of 2025 will look very different vs. the class of 2021.

  40. That list is bogus. According to PrepScholar, their admissions rate is 79% and CollegeFactual claims 26.9%.. It is a tiny college that mainly draws poor white kids from KY because it pays full tuition for kids from Appalachia. The avreage SAT is 990 and the avreage GPA is 3.5..

  41. Sorry, my post got cutoff. I was referring to Alice Lloyd College in KY which is high on that list that Lauren posted

  42. “She is interested in big schools so we toured Miami, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland, Northwestern, etc. “

    Which Miami? FL, or OH?

    I don’t think of Northwestern as a big school.

    “She might have applied to 10 schools, but I bet she will apply to at least 15 if she doesn’t decide on a school in the early process. “

    It seems like at least some schools have cut back on the amount of students they admit early. I’m not sure, but that might be more of the early admit schools (no commitment requirement on the part of the students) than the early decision schools (commitment required).

    I think the lack, in many cases, of test scores, grades, and ECs makes it harder for outstanding kids to stand out.

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