The Ivy Coach Daily

April 29, 2024

What Is the ROI of An Ivy League Education?

Previously Published on October 25, 2019:

Do you know how some folks argue that attending an Ivy League school is overrated? Do you know how they say you can be successful no matter where you go to college? It’s funny how those people rarely cite data to bolster their argument. Instead, they so often cite anecdotal evidence. Maybe they’ll name the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and say, “She didn’t go to an Ivy League school! See!

However, the fact that these folks are citing anecdotal evidence only supports the weakness of their argument. Of course, you don’t have to attend an Ivy League institution to be successful. Of course, there are exceptions. Yet the fact that exceptions exist does not mean the rule isn’t valid.

The Salaries of Ivy League Grads Tend to Be Higher Than Non-Ivy Grads

According to PayScale, as of 2023, a significant portion of Ivy League institutions are among the top 25 schools with the highest mid-career pay. These top 25 schools include Princeton University (#1), Dartmouth College (#8), the University of Pennsylvania (#10), Harvard University (#11), and Yale University (#16). When one expands the list to the top 50, Columbia University (#38), Cornell University (#40), and Brown University (#41) make the cut, too.

Scattered throughout the top 50 schools are other highly selective universities — from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (#2), to Stanford University (#5), to Williams College (#13), to Georgetown University (#25), and so on. 

The Average Early- and Mid-Career Salaries for Ivy League Grads

Below, according to PayScale, is a breakdown of Ivy League early and mid-career earning potential as of 2023:

Ivy League SchoolEarly Career PayMid Career Pay
Brown University$85,200$155,000
Columbia University$89,300$156,000
Cornell University$86,100$155,000
Dartmouth College$89,000$173,300
Harvard University$91,700$171,400
Princeton University$93,000$189,400
University of Pennsylvania$89,100$171,800
Yale University$89,700$168,300

Where You Go to College Matters

So, to those folks who argue that it doesn’t matter where you go to college, that you can be successful irrespective of where you go to school, know that you can absolutely be successful no matter where you go.

You can clerk for one of our nation’s high courts (though securing a clerkship on the Supreme Court might prove challenging since so many slots go to graduates of top law schools, like Yale Law and Harvard Law). You can run a Fortune 500 company. You can start a multi-million dollar business. There are always exceptions to every rule.

However, the rule is that typical Ivy League graduates earn significantly more than non-Ivy League graduates. It might make you frustrated. It might make you slump in your chair or decry elitism. But let’s remember the rule. Let’s not only highlight the exceptions — as remarkable as they are — while ignoring the cold, hard data.

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