CMC offers a liberal arts education that pays off, according to study

A new study finds that a liberal arts education does indeed pay off, and not surprisingly, Claremont McKenna College ranks among the top 50 for its 40-year returns.

A new study finds that a liberal arts education does indeed pay off, and Claremont McKenna College ranks among the top of U.S. universities and colleges. When it comes to the net present value 10 years after enrollment, CMC ranked 3rd out of 210 liberal arts colleges, according to a recent Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study.

That should be no surprise to CMC students and alumni, and reassuring to prospective students and families. “When I talk to prospective families, not only do I get the question about, ‘Is this liberal arts education going to pay off?’ — with ‘liberal arts’ in air quotes — but also, ‘I don’t want my son or daughter to be a philosophy major,’” said Michelle Chamberlain, CMC’s Vice President for Advancement & Student Opportunities, in a Washington Post story about the study

Chamberlain explained that critical thinking, writing skills, the ability to think across disciplines, the technical classwork, the internship experiences of students provide valuable preparation for the workforce and are things employers are seeking.

“All of these activities account for over 96% of our graduates seeking fulltime employment, military service or graduate school within six months of graduating from CMC,” Chamberlain said.

The study, conducted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, uses federal data to calculate net present value to estimate return on investment at more than 4,500 colleges and universities across the country. Such factors as costs, financial aid, and future earnings are taken into account.

The Center found that over the course of a career, a liberal arts education provides a median return on investment 40 years after enrollment that approaches $1 million. 

The Georgetown study follows the creation last year of the College Scorecard by the U.S. Dept. of Education, which found CMC’s graduates have among the highest earnings of liberal arts college graduates. CMC economics majors have the fourth highest salary among all colleges and universities, behind only Duke, Dartmouth, and the University of Chicago.

In addition, Claremont McKenna recently placed fifth among top private colleges in the West in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings. The rankings take into account student outcomes, including measures of graduate salaries and debt burdens, academic resources, student engagement, and diversity.

“When so many in and around education are concerned about the return on investment, I have been cultivating an alternative framework: the return on values,” said President Hiram Chodosh.

—Gilien Silsby