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By Kim Clark
December 7, 2015
Mark Scott—Getty Images

A new analysis of post-college earnings finds that if you subtract out the impact of students’ majors, many well-known tech schools, such as the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and the Colorado School of Mines, don’t seem to add much earnings oomph to their students’ careers.

But some liberal arts schools have graduates that, on average, earn much more than would be expected given the majors common at those schools. Among the over-performers are Wheelock College near Boston, and Sarah Lawrence, just outside of New York City.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce analyzed federal data on the 2011 earnings of all freshmen who got federal financial aid in 2001. It adjusted the average earnings of each college’s alumni for the mix of majors at that school, then ranked the colleges by their under- or over-performance on that, among other analyses.

Anthony Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown center, says his research shows that over the long term, choosing a challenging technology-related major is a bigger factor in improving a student’s earning capability than the name of the college the student attends.

But for students for whom math, engineering, or technology-related majors are not a good fit, choosing the right college can make a difference.

Best college education image

Carnevale said the new research provide initial indications that many schools in major urban centers may provide earnings advantages over similar schools in remote or rural locations, for example.

In addition, Carnevale said, analyses like his should just be a starting point for students, since they don’t take into account many other important factors, such as the cost of the college.

(Money’s college rankings combine value-added analyses of earnings with data on each college’s costs and quality indicators to provide students with a comprehensive, all-in-one analysis of the best bang-for-the-buck colleges.)

Here are five colleges Money ranks as best value schools and that Georgetown says provide earnings boosts to students no matter what they major in.

College City State 2011 Median earnings for freshmen who started in 2001 Georgetown estimate of earnings advantage after adjusting for majors Money rank
Sarah Lawrence College Bronxville NY $39,700 $8,000 237
Taylor University Upland IN $38,600 $4,600 458
Bowling Green State University-Main Campus Bowling Green OH $39,000 $4,300 577
Wheelock College Boston MA $36,400 $9,200 656
Lock Haven University Lock Haven PA $39,100 $4,700 700