By Erin Rhoda, BDN Staff
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Posted Oct. 29, 2015, at 1:17 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 29, 2015, at 3:16 p.m.
Back in April, the Brookings Institution published a report outlining how various colleges contribute to the future economic success of their students. Researchers attempted to isolate the variables within a school’s control that affect how students do after they graduate, to determine the value added by the school.
As opposed to traditional college rankings, which tend to reward selective schools, Brookings devised a way to estimate the direct, long-term contribution of the college on graduates’ future earnings, while controlling for things like the academic traits of students.
Today, the think tank released a ranking of the schools (1,507 two-year colleges and 1,666 four-year colleges) based on how they add value to future earnings. Maine Maritime Academy in Castine joins Harvard University and 13 other four-year colleges in getting the top score of 100. These schools add the most value to median earnings 10 years after students enroll, out of all the colleges examined.
Researchers found that four factors within a school’s control are strongly correlated with higher earnings for alumni later on: the labor market value of the school’s mix of course offerings and majors; the percentage of students graduating in science, technology, engineering and math fields; the percentage of graduates earning their degrees within three years for a two-year college and six years for a four-year college; and the average monthly compensation of all teaching staff.
The ranking system “is not a measure of return on investment, but rather a way to compare colleges on a more equal footing, by adjusting for the relative advantages or disadvantages faced by diverse students pursuing different levels of study across different local economies,” wrote Brookings. Data came from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard database, which means it only looked at undergraduates who received federal aid.
The news means Maine Maritime, especially because of the nature of what it teaches, is preparing its students for high-paying jobs. Along with Massachusetts Maritime Academy and SUNY Maritime College, which were also at the top of the ranking, it teaches engineering skills necessary for offshore drilling and managing shipping logistics.
There are, of course, limitations to the data, and the analysis only looked at future earnings. Different students will look for different qualities in their school: “It may include something about the depth and importance of the material taught, insights gained, skills mastered, sense of purpose established, and friendships forged, none of which can be directly measured by earnings,” wrote Brookings.
Still, the rankings give students more information on which to base a decision about college.
How did other Maine schools contribute to students’ economic advancement? Here’s the list of all the four-year schools mentioned, with their corresponding scores on a scale of 100:
Maine Maritime Academy, Castine, 100
Bates College, Lewiston, 77
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, 67
Colby College, Waterville, 54
Husson University, Bangor, 49
Thomas College, Waterville, 45
University of Maine at Fort Kent, 40
University of Maine, Orono, 37
University of Southern Maine, Portland, 20
Unity College, 14
University of Maine at Farmington, 14
St. Joseph’s College of Maine, Standish, 11
University of Maine at Presque Isle, 10
University of Maine at Machias, 6
College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, 3
Maine College of Art, Portland, 1