CSUS rates well on grad pay scale

California State University, Stanislaus, graduates have a lot of potential.

Forbes ranked their alma mater among the top public universities in graduating high wage earners.

The Forbes report is based on a PayScale.com ranking that put CSUS 137th on a list of 175 top state universities by salary potential. Mid-career, CSUS graduates earn about $71,400, according to the report. Students average beginning salaries of $38,000.

The University of California at Berkeley was the top public school overall, graduating students who start their careers making almost $60,000 a year. By mid-career, they average $112,000.

"This is just how averages compare," said Al Lee, PayScale.com's director of quantitative analysis. "The top 10 percent of any of these earn more than the top schools' average."

The PayScale.com Web site allows professionals to compare their wages with others. Its list does not include graduates with higher-level degrees. Those included have undergraduate degrees, said Erica Sanders, a PayScale.com data analyst.

University President Hamid Shirvani called the report a testament to the value CSUS students receive.

"Our graduates are discovering that you don't have to pay more for college to get a good quality education that pays off with a good salary," he said.

Sanders figures the university's business and nursing programs are giving it the biggest boost in the ranking.

In a separate PayScale.com list of majors that pay off, various engineering degrees, economics, physics and computer science ranked among the top 10 most lucrative majors.

An engineering or dental school would be a huge boost in average alumni salaries, but the university cannot afford to develop those now, Shirvani said.

About 60 percent of CSUS students stay in the area after graduation. A CSUS survey found 82 percent of 2007 graduates are employed full time or are attending graduate school. Eleven percent are working part time.

So why does the Northern San Joaquin Valley remain among the poorest regions in California?

Despite having a university with established nursing and business programs in their own back yard, Northern San Joaquin Valley residents are among the least educated in the state, said CSUS spokeswoman Kristin Olsen. The region's low-income status could change if more residents attended college.

Bee staff writer Eve Hightower can be reached at ehightower@modbee.com or 578-2382.