State Colleges and Graduates’ Comparative Starting Salaries

Because college students are taking on more debt than ever, a key factor in a student’s decision to attend a college is the starting salary they can expect after graduation. However, the cost to attend an institution of higher learning increased nearly eight times faster than wages did. to wit:

The average annual growth rate for the cost to attend a four-year university between the years 1989 and 2016 was 2.6%, compared with only a 0.3% annual growth in wages.

This leaves many students considering which colleges will provide them with the best starting salary upon graduation. A recent study by SmartAsset ranked the schools where students earned the best average starting salaries in Washington state.

Surprisingly, the top 10 all fell within the $50,000 range, with a high of $57,300 for the University of Washington Seattle Campus and a low of $50,000 for Pacific Lutheran University and Whitman College. Western Washington University was No. 7 at $50,600.

In other considerations surveyed:

The student-retention rates ranged from a high of 94% at UW/Seattle and Whitman to a low of 82% at WWU.

Both Whitman and PLU led in average scholarship and grants available at $25,600.

Whitman and PLU also were substantially higher than the other colleges in annual tuition at $46,138 and $44,976, respectively.

Annual student living costs ranged from a low $13,506 at PLU to a high of $16,791 at Seattle University.

Additional information can be found at