In a survey of earnings of graduates from 95 West Coast colleges, Southern Oregon University ranked near the bottom at number 88, with grads in full-time employment earning an average starting pay of $37,000 and a mid-career income of $67,100.
Scientific and technical schools crowded the top ranks of the survey by PayScale College Salary Report, with Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls at number 26 with starting incomes of $54,400 and mid-career salaries averaging $86,900.
Unfazed by the ranking, SOU spokesman Jim Beaver said the school attracts its students because it's not a specialized science school but epitomizes the idea of liberal arts, with students able to get an "accessible and affordable" education at a place that's "a college for everyone."
Chris Stanek, SOU's director of institutional research, questioned the PayScale study. He said it is not comprehensive, uses "smaller data sets" and samples only those who return the survey, giving it a statistical reliability of plus or minus 10 percent.
"Their charts are plastered with 'not enough data' for all the large employers in the Rogue Valley," he said. "In fact, that seems to be the case for many of the schools' reports, including OIT."
Beaver noted that the marketplace skews its financial rewards toward engineering, medical technology, science and math, while teachers are "unfortunately, notoriously underpaid."
OIT grads earn one of the highest starting salaries in the nation, placing the school 38th among 1,058 colleges in the U.S., with a starting salary of $54,600. That salary is also the highest in Oregon and the fourth highest in the western United States.
PayScale reports that OIT's mid-career salaries average $86,900 per year, placing it first in Oregon and within the top 15 percent in the nation.
In Oregon, the mid-career rankings, in descending order, were: OIT, Oregon State University, Willamette, Reed, Pacific Lutheran, University of Portland, University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark, Portland State, Linfield, SOU, George Fox and Western Oregon University.
The top 10 majors for earnings were mostly in engineering, with a few in math, computer science or statistics, according to PayScale. The top earners in the nation came from Princeton.
The survey is at www.payscale.com/college-salary-report-2013/west-coast-schools.
— John Darling
Read more in Tuesday's paper.