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Black Hills State University was recently mentioned in a New York Times blog highlighting salary levels of graduates based on a survey from PayScale.com.

In the article, Catherine Rampell questions whether elite colleges produce the best-paid graduates. The article states that “one in four BHSU grads earns more at mid-career than one in 10 Dartmouth grads.”

“The mention comparing the mid-career salary levels of BHSU graduates with those of Dartmouth graduates is a strong testament to our graduates’ success in their careers over the long term,” Corinne Hansen, director of Marketing and Communications at BHSU, says. “We are proud of the powerful influence and accomplishments of our alumni. Our graduates are getting good jobs, are accepted into and succeeding in prestigious graduate schools, and are successful business people and educators. BHSU has earned an exceptional reputation for transforming lives through high-quality innovative academic programs and a dynamic learning community.”

The survey identified BHSU graduates receiving the lowest beginning salaries among the universities included in the responses. Hansen noted that the PayScale.com survey, which has raised questions of credibility from reporters and educators, is a result of self-reporting through an internet survey rather than a comprehensive scientific study. The survey includes the self-reported entry level and mid-career salary data from graduates of 600 universities from across the United States. (There are more than 4,100 universities in the nation).

The survey does not include salary information from anyone who has earned an advanced degree or people who are self-employed and contract employees. Hansen notes the exclusion of people with an advanced degree lowered BHSU’s ranking since many BHSU graduates, especially those in biology and education go on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees.

“Many of our biology graduates go on to earn advanced degrees and are employed in the health care field as doctors, dentists, physical therapists, optometrists, or are involved in research. These students get accepted into prestigious graduate schools of their choice and do remarkably well,” Hansen says. She added that recent BHSU graduates have earned their advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Dartmouth, University of Utah, Harvard, Rutgers and many others.

“One of our biology graduates, who is now a researcher, earned her advanced degree at Dartmouth and noted that her experience as an undergraduate at BHSU was critical to her success. She credits her research experience as an undergraduate and the mentorship of BHSU professors as vital factors contributing to her success,” Hansen says.

Low teacher salaries in this region may have affected BHSU’s ranking as well. South Dakota remains at the lowest end in the nation for teacher pay. BHSU has earned a stellar reputation for graduating successful teachers for the state, region and nation. It’s significant to note that BHSU teacher education graduates enter the job market at $29,315 while the overall state salary for new teachers is $26,000.

BHSU offers an entrepreneurial studies program that prepares graduates to go into business and have many successful business people. Many BHSU business graduates go on to own their own businesses or become contract employees and were excluded from this survey.

Hansen notes that she was not particularly surprised with the rankings considering the overall low salary rankings in this region and the lower cost of living in South Dakota. Arlene Holmes, director of the Career Center at BHSU, says that BHSU graduates sometimes pass up more lucrative career offers so they can remain in the western South Dakota region due to the high quality of life and low cost of living.

“We have graduates who don’t want to leave this beautiful area. Some graduates will choose a local position so they can continue living the Black Hills region, which offers many quality of life amenities,” Holmes says. “They recognize and appreciate the high quality of life and lower cost of living offered here.”

South Dakota consistently ranks high in quality of life surveys.

“We are preparing graduates to make a difference and transform lives through their work. BHSU produces graduates who are meeting the demand for teachers and human services in this region and beyond,” Hansen says. “Studies show that in the state of S.D. people with a bachelor’s degree earn approximately one million dollars more in their lifetime compared to people with only a high school education. We know that a degree from Black Hills State University is a good investment.”