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UW-Eau Claire among top U.S. schools in helping students improve earnings, employability

May 19, 2014

Note to news editors and directors: UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt and Financial Aid Director Kathleen Sahlhoff will be available starting Tuesday, May 20, to discuss UW-Eau Claire's recent rankings related to return on investment and low student indebtedness. Contact Chancellor Schmidt at 715-836-2327; contact Sahlhoff at 715-836-3373 or sahlhoka@uwec.edu.

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is among the top schools in the nation in terms of helping its students improve their earnings and attain quality employment after graduation, according to Educate To Career's newly released College Rankings Index.

UW-Eau Claire is ranked No. 47 in the ETC index, an outcome-based college rankings tool that includes more than 1,200 schools across the country.

UW-Stevens Point is the only other Wisconsin university and Martin Luther College in New Ulm is the only Minnesota school rated among the ETC index's top 50 schools.

"This index is the latest in a series of rankings that demonstrate the incredible return our students receive when they invest in a UW-Eau Claire education," UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt said. "For its rankings, ETC determined which universities do the best job of preparing students to find well-paying jobs in their fields after graduation. That UW-Eau Claire ranks so high among schools in the Midwest and in the nation sends a strong message about the added economic value of earning a degree from this university."

In its analysis, ETC — a nonprofit organization based in California that provides outcome-focused college-planning tools for high school students and their parents — included all four-year colleges in the United States with an enrollment of 1,000 or more students.

The ETC index reports the average starting salary for UW-Eau Claire graduates as $31,500, a figure based on all graduates who are employed full time within one year of graduation.

The ETC college ranking system defines economic value added as being the improvement in earnings and employability of graduates measured against the total cost of their education, according to the ETC website.

For its rankings, ETC analyzes the quality of students when they enter a college, the total costs related to attending the college and the outcomes of the students when they enter the labor market. The rankings are determined by which schools did the best job of improving the earnings and employability of their students, relative to cost, according to the ETC website.

ETC considered data such as the percentage of graduates employed within their field of study, salaries earned by recent graduates, percent employed within a year of graduation, number of years to graduation, net tuition and loan default rates.

Earlier this spring, the 2014 PayScale.com College ROI Report ranked UW-Eau Claire among the top three colleges and universities in Wisconsin and Minnesota — public or private — in annual return on investment (ROI) for students who pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid.

UW-Eau Claire's annual ROI is 10.4 percent, according to the PayScale.com report. UW-Platteville and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are the only higher education institutions in Wisconsin or Minnesota with higher annual ROI rankings, according to the report.

PayScale.com's annual ROI rankings compare a person's return over 20 years when investing money in a degree at a certain school, as opposed to investing money in other ways, like the stock market or bonds.

"Our students' annual ROI is greater than it would be had they gone to college almost anywhere else in Wisconsin or Minnesota," Schmidt said, noting that reciprocity agreements between Wisconsin and Minnesota allow students from Minnesota to pay in-state tuition when attending public universities in Wisconsin.

The PayScale.com and ETC rankings that demonstrate the high return on investment for graduates are especially meaningful given UW-Eau Claire's liberal arts emphasis, Schmidt said.

"Our graduates are critical thinkers, creative problem-solvers, innovators and effective communicators, and they know how to work as part of a team," Schmidt said. "Our students develop the interpersonal skills that employers in all fields tell us they highly value."

Schmidt said even more encouraging news for Blugolds comes from recent reports regarding college graduate indebtedness.

UW-Eau Claire graduates who took out student loans have the lowest average debt of similar graduates from all UW System universities, according to the UW System's Student Financial Aid: 2012-13 report. The report states that the average debt after earning a bachelor's degree for UW-Eau Claire graduates who took out student loans was $25,739, below the $29,219 UW System average.

Taken together, UW-Eau Claire's high ROI rankings and low student indebtedness numbers demonstrate how well the university is positioning its students for future success, Schmidt said.

UW-Eau Claire's high rankings in the PayScale.com 2014 College ROI Report and ETC College Ranking Index follow other national recognitions noting UW-Eau Claire's quality and value. Recent examples are UW-Eau Claire's inclusion in The Princeton Review's 150 "Best Value Colleges for 2014" in the United States and Washington Monthly's 2013 "Best Bang for the Buck" rankings.

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