The view of Humboldt State University from 14th Street. | File photo by Lauren Shea

Humboldt Degree Value Lowest in CSU System

Studies show Humboldt State graduates receive lowest pay among CSUs

Georgetown study shows HSU graduates receive lowest pay over 40 years

Humboldt State University has the lowest earnings for graduates out of all 23 California State Universities, according to a recent Georgetown study.

The study said the average HSU student makes $752,000 within 40 years after graduating, which makes HSU the lowest earning CSU on the list. The average for other CSUs was around $1 million. For comparison, Chico State students reportedly made $1,018,000, while CSU Los Angeles students averaged $1,019,000.

The study measured the value of a college degree in net present value. According to the study, NPV is how much a sum of money in the future is valued today. According to, “this metric includes costs, future earnings and the length of time it would take to invest and earn a certain amount of money over a fixed horizon.”

“I believe it’s very important to think about the fact that the 30, 40, 50 years of a person’s working life are a lot more satisfying if it’s a job you enjoy and allows you to do the things you are passionate about.”

Alison Holmes

This fixed horizon is split into increments of 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40 years. This number is calculated by subtracting the amount of money a person can make at a minimum-wage job over that same time period, as well as taking into account student loans. This number contrasts against working a job that doesn’t require a degree. The result is the return on one’s investment.

Alison Holmes, associate professor in the Department of International Studies at HSU and a participant in the development of the career curriculum for the arts and humanities, believes the study isn’t taking enough into account.

“The frame of this research is clearly about size of income over the years after graduation,” Holmes said. “And while I would never say that is unimportant, I believe it’s very important to think about the fact that the 30, 40, 50 years of a person’s working life are a lot more satisfying if it’s a job you enjoy and allows you to do the things you are passionate about.”


Gina Kelble, an HSU freshman who sees herself going into environmental law, expects to make a decent living.

“I’ll probably end up going to [University of Colorado] Denver or CU Boulder for grad school,” Kelble said. “I have connections back at home through past internships, so those will be stronger than my Humboldt ones.”

Kelble is confident in her ability to get into grad school and dodge the bullet of making the average income of an HSU graduate.

“The study also makes the point that it’s about knowing yourself or, put another way and as I say to students, choices have consequences,” Holmes said. “There is nothing wrong with wanting money, if that’s lots and lots of money or just basic financial security. But you need to be clear that jobs have a pay scale. As a society we can work to get better pay for people, but for now, it is important to think about jobs with a very clear understanding of the pros and the cons of that choice.”

Holmes said that while money is a necessity, it stands among many others things that should be taken into account.

“As long as we send students into the world prepared to do what they want to do and always striving to fulfill their amazing potential, I am not going to spend too much time worrying about a study based on a scale based on the size of a paycheck,” Holmes said.

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One Comment

  1. Mike Stockstill HSU Class of 1971 Mike Stockstill HSU Class of 1971 Saturday, January 25, 2020

    If you look at an alumni directory you’ll see that many HSU grads choose careers in teaching or government work, especially in natural resources. These pay well under jobs our friends at business or tech schools can expect. The true value of any college experience is the impact on your future interest in life.

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