HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Gaps in Alumni Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data.

The Department of Education calculated the percentage of students at each college who earned more than $25,000 per year, which is about what high school graduates earn. At hundreds of colleges, less than half of students met this threshold 10 years after enrolling. The list includes a raft of barber academies, cosmetology schools and for-profit colleges that often leave students with few job prospects and mountains of debt.

But some more well-known institutions weren’t far behind. At Bennington College in Vermont, over 48 percent of former students were earning less than $25,000 per year. A quarter were earning less than $10,600 per year. At Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, the median annual earnings were only $35,700. Results at the University of New Mexico were almost exactly the same.

The data reveals how much money students are borrowing in exchange for earnings after graduation. While U.C.L.A. and Penn State are both prestigious public research universities, recent U.C.L.A. grads leave with about 30 percent less debt, even as their predecessors are earning about 30 percent more money than counterparts at Penn State. Harvard students borrow barely a quarter of what Brandeis students take on, and earn nearly twice as much.

In other words, a college degree isn’t a generic product, or a magic wealth-enhancer. It matters a lot what and where you study, and when you calculate return on investment, the size of the investment matters as much as the size of the return.

Who knew?