A Quick Financial Comparison of RI Colleges


Thanks to some unauthorized ball playing in my front yard, the rear window of my car had to be replaced, yesterday.  When he arrived, the technician looked very familiar, although it took me most of the installation to figure out why:  He attended a private elementary school when, in my late twenties, I taught computers one year and seventh grade (as an extended-term substitute) there.

In conversation, it turned out that he was consciously waiting on college until he could explain to himself why he was going.  “I don’t want to end up back in this job, but with student loans,” he said.  That’s wise for two reasons, to which I can speak from my own experience:

  1. What one studies in college matters, and despite the cliché that Baby Boomers handed down to subsequent generations, the cost of college is awfully high, these days, if it’s simply a period of self exploration.  (As an aside, one can explore and define one’s self through any activity.  The increasingly clear conclusion is that the progressives who define the popular culture like to brand college as the archetype of self discovery because they know their co-ideologues in the colleges will be happy to make the process a contrived scavenger hunt for their absurd ideas.  In the real world, young adults might discover that hard work pays off, family is important, religion sheds light on life, and conservatives aren’t evil and, in fact, talk common sense.)
  2. A student who knows why he or she is attending college will do better, because he or she will take the work more seriously based on the tangible life goals that inspire it.

Simply put, a young adult who doesn’t know why he or she is going to college shouldn’t be there.  Consider my former student.  Indeed.com puts the average pay for auto glass installation in Providence at $41,000, and Salary.com puts the median at almost $52,000.  Compare that with the median earnings of people ten years after they received federal aid to attend colleges in Rhode Island.  (Keep in mind, of course, that the Indeed.com and Salary.com figures will include all employees from entry level to senior level, while the college data includes everybody from students who didn’t graduate to those with very targeted, high-income degrees.)

Only three of the twelve Rhode Island colleges listed beat the Salary.com number for auto glass installers, and only seven of them beat the lower Indeed.com number.  Meanwhile, eight of the colleges cost as much or more per year as the estimated average salary for high school graduates ($25,000).

The pictures are more complicated for individuals, naturally.  Only 16% of full-time CCRI students graduate within four years, but that could mean that they are taking a long-term approach to education while working or transfer to four-year colleges.  (The methodology isn’t immediately clear.)

There is hope, however, in the possibility that younger generations are beginning to see college not as an expectation, but as a possible route to a better life for those who have a plan.

  • Mike678

    “In the real world, young adults might discover that hard work pays off, family is important, religion sheds light on life, and conservatives aren’t evil and, in fact, talk common sense.) Bingo!

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I think “auto glass installers” was a poor choice. It first occurred to me many years ago when my local auto glass shop had a sign reading “free tank of glass with windshield”. About 20 years ago, the windshield on my Audi cracked. When I went to a shop and asked the price, the first question was “is it insured”. Acknowledging that it was, I was given a price of $800.00. A year, or so, later I was offered an Audi which already had a broken windshield. I went to another shop and got the “is it insured” question. Answering no, I was given a price of $300.00. To be fair, the $800.00 one was German (not a recommendation) and the $300.00 one was American. More recently, the much larger windshield in my van was becoming distracting in sunlight owing to road wear. I was quoted $187.00 installed. I was also told “I didn’t say this, but why don’t you throw a rock at it”, meaning insurance would cover it. I suspect there is some “juice” in the windshield business although, without doubt, they have gotten cheaper. Perhaps something has changed with insurers in the 17-18 year spread.

    Did you compare any other occupations.

    • OceanStateCurrent

      That makes some difference, but basically, it looks like any real career-type job will compare favorably to the college data. Salary.com puts Entry-Level Carpenters at $39,000, Carpet Installers (overall) at $42k, and Bricklayers at $48k.

      You have to get down into jobs like retail clerk to come out convincingly below the college estimates.

      (Of course, college-related jobs may tend to be preferable for other reasons than salary.)

      • Rhett Hardwick

        (Of course, college-related jobs may tend to be preferable for other reasons than salary.)

        Yes, there is nothing quite like being out on a freezing cold morning whacking a lift of 2 X 4’s with a hammer to break them free.

        • OceanStateCurrent

          See, that’s where it gets complicated with, I think, an unfortunate modern misconception. There’s a lot that’s rewarding in jobs like construction. We’ve been conditioned, though, to find the slow, soul-sapping agony of some desk jobs preferable to the more arduous, but ultimately more invigorating and rewarding, jobs like construction.

          When I look back at difficult times I’ve had in cushy office work versus difficult times I’ve had in manual labor, I’d choose the latter every time.

  • Mike

    Good article Justin, and one I can relate to. I attended RIC in the late 1980’s and early 90’s and graduated with a degree in Computer Science. About half of my former classmates who started there as a freshman in my major like me either switched majors, dropped out, or switched to another university (URI for most). For the remaining 20 of us or so at graduation, only 6 of us (including me) have profiles on LinkedIn to this day that reflect the fact we are still working in the field we went to college for. As far as cost, I paid around $5500 per year back then in tuition, all of it cash from working full and part time jobs while attending. My starting salary back then out of college was $26,000, which was not bad considering I had no student loan debt. I heard stories of some of my former classmates who transferred to other universities making more, but carrying heavier student loan debt. All in all I ended up better than most of those because I was able to buy a house less than 3 years after graduating.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I commend a book titled “The Millionaire Next Door”. It was a big seller about 10 years ago. You may recall when “frugal” was the key word in all business advertising. It is an interesting discussion of who does what with their income. Key points I recall, never buy a new Mercedes, buy a small house in a good neighborhood, never sell, add on as family grows, buy clothes at J.C. Penny.