A new federal website shows how much graduates are earning 10 years after they received their degrees from public and private universities, and from community colleges.

Share story

The federal Department of Education released a trove of data over the weekend aimed at helping students choose where to go to college — and whether some colleges are worth the cost and time. The College Scorecard is not the rating system the Obama administration once promised, but it does provide some interesting details about Washington state’s public and private colleges.

Among Washington’s public research universities, the University of Washington and its branch campuses perform well; the average annual cost to attend for federal financial aid recipients was under $12,000 a year, and 10 years after they entered college, the median income of students who received financial aid was more than $50,000 a year. Washington State University cost a little more than the UW (more than $16,000 a year for financial aid recipients), and its low-income degree-holders earned a median salary of a little less than $50,000 a year.

At both schools, 73 percent of students who attended earned more than those with only a high school diploma. And the UW is included in a special list of 30 schools with high graduation rates and low costs for the lowest-income students.

At Central Washington University, 69 percent graduates earn more than those with a high school diploma; the number was 64 percent from Western Washington University, 63 percent from Eastern Washington University and 46 percent from The Evergreen State College. EWU had the lowest six-year graduation rate (46 percent), and WSU had the highest price tag for low-income students, after federal aid was taken into account ($16,834).

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Five community colleges netted their graduates salaries of $35,000 a year or more 10 years after graduation: Bellevue, Shoreline, Highline and Everett community colleges, and the Lake Washington Institute of Technology. Bellingham Technical College had an unusually high graduation rate among the state’s two-year colleges (55 percent) and a notably low average annual cost for financial aid recipients ($4,491).

Among private schools, the high cost and low payoff after going to art school might give some students pause. Cornish College of the Arts charged $33,177 for federal financial-aid recipients, and the median salary for its graduates after 10 years was $29,900. Similarly, The Art Institute of Seattle charged $28,297 for financial-aid recipients, who made a median salary of $34,100 after 10 years.

A number of the state’s liberal-arts colleges were pricey even for students who qualified for federal financial aid, including Whitman College ($34,753 for those who qualified for aid), Seattle University ($33,557), University of Puget Sound ($32,115) and Gonzaga University ($28,115). On the flip side, a few private schools were a relative bargain for students who qualify for aid: Heritage University ($9,734), Trinity Lutheran College ($15,143), St. Martin’s University ($19,077) and Northwest University ($20,032).

In the New York Times, columnist Kevin Carey wrote that “the deeper that you delve into the data, the more clear it becomes how perilous the higher education market can be for students making expensive, important choices that don’t always pay off.”  His examples include some small, liberal-arts colleges on the East Coast, where students often make little after graduation — particularly if they major in the arts.

Other news sites that weighed in: Slate (“Students deserve to know what they can realistically expect to earn after attending school, and whether that justifies the tuition they will potentially have to pay”) and Vox (the site “makes it possible to compare colleges serving similar groups of students, such as low-income students of color, and highlight those that do it best.”)