Colleges with the Worst Gender Pay Gaps for Graduates
Despite a long and continuous fight for wage equality, the gender pay gap still exists today. In 2020, women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned. For women of color and those from marginalized groups, that number was even lower.
The wage gap still exists in part because women more often work in lower-paid positions and industries. However, even when those factors are accounted for, women still earn 98 cents for every dollar a man earns with the same job and qualifications.
The wage gap is influenced by a variety of factors aside from gender discrimination in pay. Variables including regional differences in culture or religion, state laws and policies on equal pay, and local labor markets can impact the pay gap for specific states, cities, and colleges.
We determined which colleges have the worst gender pay gap for alumni based on wage data released in February 2022 by College Scorecard and the U.S. Department of Education. College Scorecard earnings data measures median salaries for financial aid recipients 10 years after enrolling to capture employment outcomes for early-career graduates.
How Much is the Gender Pay Gap for College Graduates?
Based on the latest data provided by the U.S. Department of Education, the pay gap between median salaries at four-year colleges is $11,187. The median salary for female college graduates is $43,712. Their male counterparts earn 26% more than them with a median salary of $54,899.
Which Colleges have the Worst Gender Pay Gap?
This list highlights 21 four-year universities in the United States where male graduates earn at least $30,000 more than female graduates. The worst colleges for wage equality include a mix of religious schools, elite colleges, medical universities, and a handful of online colleges. The college with the worst wage equality for graduates remains Brigham Young University, with men earning more than three times what women earn with their degree.
Colleges where Men Earn $30k+ More than Women after Graduation
Utah Schools and Colleges Affiliated with the Latter-day Saints
Many of the colleges on this list appear here due to the sizable Mormon population in Utah and the impact church policies have on Mormon women and their careers. Brigham Young University campuses, known by and large for their affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), are heavily represented on this list. Its flagship campus is the worst school for wage equality, with men earning $67,000 more than women after graduation. Male alumni from Utah State University and Southern Utah University earn double what their female classmates earn.
A 2019 article written by journalist Natasha Frost outlines LDS policies on gender roles and how they govern life for Mormon women. The church emphasizes the divinity of a one income family and is conservative when it comes to women's roles. Mormon women are largely discouraged from working at all, let alone pursuing high-paying careers. Frost noted that Mormon women who do work often find things they can do from home, like blogging or selling products online.
Given these cultural and religious practices, it's not surprising that schools with ties to the Mormon community have sizable wage gaps. The wage data used for this article doesn't include people who are unemployed, but does encompass people who work part-time or work for themselves, as would be the case for Mormon women who become influencers or multi-level marketers, for example.
While a prestigious education often opens the door to higher salaries for women, elite schools are also known to have some of the worst gender pay gaps. Harvard University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and Carnegie Mellon University all have a wage gap of at least $30,000 for alumni. Princeton is the elite school with the largest gap, where female graduates earn $41,000 less than their male counterparts 10 years after enrolling.
Experts have noted this likely doesn't encompass the full wage gap at elite colleges because fewer students at these schools use financial aid to pay for college, and College Scorecard only includes data for financial aid recipients.
Even though female graduates from these schools are often highly paid, with median starting salaries upwards of $77,000 in each of these cases, they reap less benefit than men do from their elite education.
While female graduates of Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford earn significantly less than male alumni, some elite colleges have a significantly smaller pay gap. These include:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the male median salary is just $4,619 higher than the median for women
- New York University: $4,869 pay difference
- Columbia University: $6,433 pay difference
- Johns Hopkins University: $8,798 pay difference
Each of these schools has a significantly lower pay gap compared to the median of $11,187 for four-year universities. Columbia, NYU, and Johns Hopkins are a few of the elite colleges with the most women enrolled in math programs, according to enrollment data from fall 2020. NYU also has a high number of women in business programs compared to similar colleges.
Online schools often market themselves to adults looking to earn credentials to increase their salary, qualify for a promotion, or change careers. They often work with lower-income students, those who may have difficulty getting into other schools, and those with families and full-time jobs.
Online schools are highly popular with military students, many of whom use their degree to advance their military career after college. Some of the online schools with the worst gender pay gaps — Columbia Southern University, Excelsior College, and Southern New Hampshire University — are all large online schools with a high rate of graduates working for the military after graduation. Studies have shown that, while a gender pay gap doesn't exist in the military, women are promoted and retained less often than men, which could explain why these large online schools have higher wage gaps.
Interestingly, Union Institute and University has the second-worst gender pay gap in the country after BYU. This is likely due to the online school's popularity with men in law enforcement, particularly in California. Employment data from analytics company Burning Glass Technologies shows that nearly half of alumni live in California, a state known for its high cost of living and higher median salaries. Top occupations for graduates are focused in law enforcement, and 82% of male graduates in 2020 earned their degree in law enforcement, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education.
Online schools with smaller pay gaps of less than $10,000 tend to have smaller enrollment sizes and likely serve their local communities rather than students all over the country, as is the case with larger online colleges like Southern New Hampshire University.
Samuel Merritt University is one of the top four-year universities in the country for women's salaries, in part because it is focused on healthcare and medical degrees. However, it's also one of the schools with the worst gender pay gaps, alongside University of Nebraska Medical Center, Medical University of South Carolina, and Upstate Medical University.
Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that these schools are largely popular with women in healthcare professions. Women made up 71% of health professions graduates at these four colleges in 2019, and more than half of female graduates earned their degree in nursing. While nursing was also a highly popular major for men, an equal number of them graduated with degrees in medicine, the only program where men outnumbered women.
In short, medical schools on this list likely appear here due in part to the pervasive gender pay gap in healthcare between male and female doctors, but also because these colleges graduate more men into higher-paying professions than women.
This study looked at colleges that offer four-year degrees and predominantly award bachelor's degrees at the undergraduate level. It excluded schools that primarily award associate degrees or do not offer bachelor's degrees. Wage data was sourced from College Scorecard using the most recent institution-level data released February 7, 2022. Median earnings were for male and non-male graduates, not currently enrolled in school, who reported earning at least $1 on their taxes. Earnings data was captured 10 years after initial enrollment.