Opinions, Column, Featured Column

Men and Women for Business

Boston College Eagles start off rich in September of their freshman year, shiny-eyed and laden with packing containers stacked high with fresh T-shirts. And then Eagles leave rich in May of their senior year, the same packing containers full of wrinkled pillow cases and half-empty shampoo bottles.

Or at least, that’s what the recent New York Times study about wealth on college campuses pointed out. About 70 percent of incoming freshmen come from the top 20 percent of wealth, with a median family income of nearly $200,000. These figures are among the highest in colleges in the ACC and in Massachusetts. Sixteen percent come from the top 1 percent, and just 3.1 percent come from the lowest 20 percent—a proportion that is among the lowest among colleges in Massachusetts.

From there, it seems that wealth maintains. At age 34, male BC graduates make on average $85,800, while women make on average $62,200. Eleven percent of former Eagles fly on up to the 1 percent, nearly as many as started there in the first place. Just 1.6 percent of students who started in the bottom 20 percent will end up in the top quintile.

Data aren’t available for the median incomes of BC graduates by specific school at age 34, so it’s impossible to know how graduates of different programs fare. But data are available for new graduates a year out of college, most recently for the Class of 2014.

In the Morrissey College of Arts & Sciences, the most popular major is economics, and the most popular post-graduate jobs are in marketing or finance/banking. In the Carroll School of Management, finance/banking takes the top spot. Even in the Lynch School of Education, the second and third most popular jobs are in marketing and finance/banking. Recent BC grads most often report back that they are working at a few firms, with names that call to mind high-rise buildings, mahogany desks, and influxes of money: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. It seems obvious. BC shuttles a majority of its high-minded, Jesuit-spirited, graduates to go set Wall Street aflame.

And the salaries that recent graduates report back to the University mostly fall in with this line of thought. Computer science workers make the most money, it turns out, with a median salary of $63,000, according to the BC post-graduation plans survey for 2014. But next comes consulting, finance/banking, and in the No. 5 spot there’s marketing—three fields based in the business world that are making more money than the nurses, teachers, writers, and government workers that come out of BC in smaller numbers.

This isn’t exactly a surprise. At the most recent Career Center event, meant to cater to all students of the University, just a handful of tables were expressly not business school-related. At one table, the representative, when asked about a national security-related branch of the company, responded that he only had information about the financial branch. That’s not to say that BC completely neglects all other fields—a virtual career fair for health and science fields is coming up on Feb. 7. Students can chat with representatives from the comfort of their own computers. But that’s not exactly a setup conducive to stumbling upon an unknown firm, or connecting with a rep through a gesture.

CSOM holds its own career events too—the school organizes mock interviews with representatives from popular companies to best prepare students for what they might face. Nearly 50 percent of graduates in finance/banking found their job via the Career Center or EagleLink. Just 25 percent of graduates working in education did, and just 13 percent of graduates working in government, according to the 2014 post-graduate survey. Do the math.

It looks good for a university to boast a high placement rate (95.7 percent for the class of 2014) and a high median-income rate—if the essential rule of a school is to get the majority of its students into high-paying jobs, and make the sky-high tuition into a higher return on the investment. It’s good marketing. But BC was founded for a slightly different reason. The street-car, community college that started in the South End for the children of underserved Irish immigrants was created to foster a liberal arts attitude, spur curiosity, and spit out graduates with a fierce desire to make the world a better place. Gasson was built with lofty ambitions and spires that touched the sky.

Fulton Hall, where the business school is housed, was named after Reverend Robert Fulton, S.J., the first dean of Boston College. He taught a class of 22 men in 1864, back when the University was still in Boston’s South End and was meant to educate Irish Catholics in the Jesuit tradition, which includes a commitment to service. He was made president in 1870. Fulton, who was described as the “animating spirit” of BC, held office for 10 years, but was long gone by 1938, when the first courses in business administration began.

He would have no way of knowing the events of the last few years, either: that the dean of CSOM, Andy Boynton, was investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for violating auditor independence rules with Deloitte & Touche, LLP, and that that case was eventually settled for $60,000. Rev. Fulton wouldn’t know that every school at BC but the Connell School of Nursing is most likely to place graduates into a business profession rather than any other field. And he wouldn’t know that the University pushes students from all degree programs toward the steady, relatively high-paying jobs that come with corporate business, rather than the less predictable positions in non-profits or volunteering that BC’s Jesuit mission points to.

So, the rich stay rich, at least at BC, helped along the way by a University that was originally meant to open up students to careers in leadership, service, and change. Instead, students who came to BC to (theoretically) carry the torch and light the way end up high in the sky, sitting in anonymous cubicles, behind glossy windows that look down at the bustling people of the world.

Featured Image by Meg Dolan / Heights Staff

January 30, 2017