One of the myths I challenge in Beating the College Debt Trap is the notion that it’s worth taking on significant debt to attend a prestigious university because the extra earnings you’ll reap make it worth the huge price tag. Wrong. Nine times out of ten, that you go to college (and graduate) matters more than where you go to college. In fact, if future earnings were the sole criterion (not recommended), your choice of major makes a bigger difference than your choice of college.
“STEM is the biggest measurable factor on average across all the institutional factors,” says Brookings Fellow Jonathan Rothwell, who co-authored the report. “The only surprising thing is that it works even if you don’t go to an elite school. You don’t necessarily have to go to Caltech or MIT and major in computer science there. Even if you go to community college, you’ll see an earnings premium.”
[For the record, in my book I give several other principles for choosing a college major besides future earnings. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity” (Eccl. 5:10). That said, it’s wise for students to consider earning prospects when deciding how much to pay (or borrow) for college.]