The White House recently released data about colleges across the United States that allows potential applicants to compare institutions based on average annual cost, graduation rate, average salary 10 years after entering the school and other factors regarding debt and loan repayment. The numbers on cost and salary are only based on students who receive federal financial aid.
Wellesley did well regarding graduation rate, coming in at 92 percent, well above the national average. The college also surpassed other women’s colleges such as Mount Holyoke and Bryn Mawr in this respect. In comparison, MIT finished just slightly ahead with a 93 percent graduation rate and Harvard had a rate of 97 percent.
According to the College Scorecard, 10 years after enrolling at Wellesley College about 75 percent of Wellesley graduates make more than high school graduates. Wellesley did well in this regard compared to other women’s colleges, finishing at number two after Barnard. Some other elite institutions had far higher numbers, such as MIT, which came in at $91,600. However, Scott Wallace-Juedes, director of Student Financial Services (SFS), pointed out that this information is based on a relatively small subset of Wellesley students, only those who receive federal financial aid.
“We have an inordinate number of students that go on to graduate school, so I would think that there’d be some link,” Wallace-Juedes said, offering another possible explanation as to why average salaries of Wellesley alumnae are not higher.
According to a 2009 Alumnae Survey by the Wellesley Office of Institutional Research, 79 percent of those polled had enrolled in some kind of graduate or professional degree program following graduation. When asked how long they had attended graduate or professional school, 31 percent responded with one to two years, and 28 percent with three to four years. The College Scorecard looks at average salaries six years after graduation, so many Wellesley graduates were either still pursuing other degrees or have just entered the workforce at that point in their careers.
The average annual cost for a student on federal financial aid at Wellesley College is $21,930 according to the College Scorecard, higher than the national average of $16,789. For comparison, the average annual cost of Harvard is $14,049, while MIT fared similarly to Wellesley with an average cost of $21,816. Because the data only refers to this smaller sampling of students, the results may be skewed.
“Regardless of whether or not you receive federal aid or just Wellesley aid, we meet 100 percent of your demonstrated need. Just because you may not have federal work study or maybe you borrowed a Wellesley loan instead of a federal loan, you wouldn’t be included in that number,” Wallace-Juedes said.
The Wellesley Students’ Aid Society (WSAS), which is a separate non profit from the college, contributes both loans and grants as part of aid packages through SFS. According to Catherine Kefalas, executive director of the WSAS, the organization has pledged $360,000 in grants and $600,000 in loans for the 2015-2016 school year. Since these are not from a federal source, students who receive this aid but not federal aid are not included in the data used to create the College Scorecard.
“The thought process behind it [the Scorecard] is very thoughtful, more information is generally better, but I think that by excluding so many students and the data source being from federal databases, it’s reflective of their federal aid programs. Wellesley has such a more robust commitment and aid policy that it doesn’t always reflect all of the work that the institution does,” Wallace-Juedes said.
Students researching colleges now have easily accessible financial information regarding loans and average costs, although these numbers may not fully express how much financial aid is available at a particular institution. It is unclear how much this will affect college choices as families decide what is viable for them.
“Having this information would not have affected my college decision…I also know that salary depends on the major of the student and whether they go on to grad school or not,” Kelechi Alfred-Igbokwe ’19 said. She also noted that she did her own calculations before accepting Wellesley’s offer, echoing earlier remarks that while it is helpful to see averages, an individual’s net price is ultimately most important.