Pitzer College, ranked as the seventh most liberal college in the country and the most liberal of the Claremont Colleges, claims in its mission statement that it “celebrates cultural diversity and intercultural understanding,” stating that students come from “different socioeconomic, ethnic and geographic backgrounds.” A study released by the Equality for Opportunity Project and publicized by the New York Times, however, posits a different view. The study reveals Pitzer to have the worst income mobility of the Claremont Colleges, with students making barely a seventh of what their parents earn by mid career.
This fact can be a major deterrent to students from lower-income families; with the median family income at Pitzer College sitting at a whopping $216,000—the 12th-highest of all US colleges, and the highest of any Claremont College—one might expect alumni salaries to at least reach similar levels. Alumni, however, earn a median income of only $43,500 by age 34. According to the same study, graduates from Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Pomona College, and Harvey Mudd College—the other members of the Claremont Colleges consortium—earn a median income of $46,400, $62,000, $69,900, and $82,400 respectively, by the same age. Pitzer’s actual lack of socioeconomic diversity can likely be attributed, in part, to its poor standing in comparison to both the other Claremont Colleges, and to other schools more broadly, in this regard.
To pinpoint the source of Pitzer graduates’ economic woes, it’s important to look at the most common majors at the various Claremont Colleges. According to College Factual, Economics, Mathematics, and Computer science majors dominate at Pomona, while Economics, Political Science, and Government majors are the majority at Claremont McKenna. Meanwhile, Harvey Mudd boasts General Engineering, Computer Science, and Physics as its top majors. Scripps majors favor General Biology, General Psychology, and Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology majors. Pitzer’s biggest majors are quite distinct from the rest of the Claremont Colleges; Communication and Media Studies, Natural Resources Conservation, and General Psychology are its top majors.
Choice of major could go a long way towards explaining why Pitzer graduates make less money than their fellow Claremont Colleges graduates. According to a 2017 study by CareerBuilder, the top ten most in-demand majors are Business, Engineering, Computer and Information Sciences, Engineering Technologies, Communications Technologies, Math and Statistics, Construction Trades, Science Technologies, and Architecture and Planning. Notably absent are a number of liberal arts majors, including many of Pitzer’s most popular majors. The lack of demand for these graduates likely has a strong correlation to the comparatively low salary listed for Pitzer alumni in the Equality for Opportunity Project’s study. As any economics professor will tell you, low demand for workers equals a low salary for those workers.
While niche degrees like those most in-demand at Pitzer are absolutely necessary for the good of society, having a surplus of these degrees makes the employment search more difficult. Furthermore, the scarcity of employment opportunities for Pitzer alumni may, at least partially, contribute to its lack of economic diversity in the student body. The liberal arts have long been a privilege of the upper class. If Pitzer wants to be true to its stated mission, it needs to find a way to hold true to the values and curriculum that have made it a well-respected institution, while at the same time finding new ways to promote the study of fields that might broaden its appeal to include a more diverse student body.
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