Study claims majors more important than institutions

By Elizabeth zinchuk


A new educational study might change the way students view their state’s flagship universities.

College Measures, a partnership between the American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge Group, collected information on how much graduates earned their first year out of college.


Mark Schnieder, College Measures president, said the study shows many states focus their financial resources in flagship universities, while community colleges are proving to be just as good in helping students obtain jobs post-graduation.

“The findings challenge some conventional wisdom, showing for example that what you study matters more than where you study,” Schnieder said in an email.

The study also shows those who graduate from flagship colleges and enter the job market directly after graduation did not earn more than graduates of regional college campuses.

Schneider said the study provides the public information they can use to make informed decisions while choosing a college.

“The right choices can lead to good careers and good wages, while the wrong ones can leave graduates with mountains of debt and poor prospects for ever paying off student loans,” the email said.

Michelle Garrett, SIU Career Services recruitment coordinator, said she agreed with the study.

“From my perspective, from working with students, working with employers and then just reading professional journals in my field, major does seem to play a larger role in starting salaries compared to what institution a student goes to,” Garrett said.


More than institution, Garrett said employers coming to the university are more concerned with the amount of involvement and the individual.

“(Employers) are more interested in major, GPA and involvement as an undergraduate student,” Garrett said. “When it comes down to it, employers are more looking for individual qualities and characteristics.”

Garrett mentioned student organizations, campus activities, community service and volunteerism as things employers look at more often than institution attended or GPA. She said an employer is more apt to hire someone with a lower GPA but has been more active in organizations that relate to their major or discipline.

“Going to prestigious colleges like Harvard, Princeton, Yale of course is going to have some more stakes because of the admissions requirements,” Garrett said. “But I still believe that the major is more looked at than the institution.”

Students agreed major played a larger role in career earning, but also accredited the specific major program at a particular institution.

Mallory Stulga, a senior from Manteno studying radiologic sciences, said she thinks her program’s prestige at SIU will help her look more impressive to employers compared to institution alone.

“I think going into the SIU’s radiology program counts more than going to a more prestigious school,” Stulga said.

Alex Frick, a senior from Carbondale studying radiologic science, said she agreed majors play a larger role than an institution’s reputation.

“The reputation of a major’s program has a larger effect than the reputation of a school,” Frick said.

Andrew J. Ross, a freshman from Mount Carmel studying computer science, said he had always considered an institution something employers highly considerated.

“I would think that employers would look at where you went to school before they looked at the major,” Ross said. “As a computer science major going to SIU, I think I will get a job, but have to do some searching first.”