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Top colleges for producing graduates who make the world a better place

It’s college rankings season! And what a crowded season it is, with some relatively new competitors in the mix. I’d like to add just one more to this collection of scholastic listicles: the top colleges for producing graduates who make the world a better place.

PayScale, which collects self-reported salary information, has just come out with updated data on median salaries earned by graduates of hundreds of colleges. But to those who worry that reducing the value of a college education to financial returns, you might be interested in another question PayScale asked respondents: “Does your work make the world a better place?” The answer choices were “Very much so,” “Yes,” “A little,” “No,” and “My job may make the world a worse place.”

Here are the 10 colleges whose grads were most likely to say “very much so” or “yes” (which PayScales categorizes as people with “high job meaning”):

School Name Mid-Career Median Pay  % with High Job Meaning
Loma Linda University $80,000 91%
Medical College of Georgia $70,100 88%
University of Texas – Medical Branch (UTMB) $89,000 88%
Thomas Jefferson University $83,000 86%
Viterbo University $71,100 85%
Gwynedd Mercy University $66,600 85%
Trident University International $62,300 82%
The University of Texas (UT) – Health Science Center at San Antonio $80,500 82%
Hartwick College $85,800 80%
Long Island University – Brooklyn $88,800 80%

Some patterns emerge from this ranking. Many of the schools are religiously-affiliated (like Loma Linda University, a Seventh-day Adventist school, and Viterbo University, a Roman Catholic school). Many are also focused on nursing and other health-related fields. And health-related majors more generally tend to produce graduates who believe they are improving mankind, according to PayScale’s 2013 data:

Majors That Change the World

As with any ranking that focuses on outcomes (including salaries), what we really want to know is how much the initial inputs differed.

Most likely the kinds of students who enrolled at Loma Linda University are different than the kinds of students who enrolled at other schools, and might have ended up in careers they viewed as world-improving even if they had matriculated elsewhere. The question is, to what extent do certain colleges nudge impressionable students into — or away from — fields that make the world a better place? This kind of question results in a lot of soul-searching (and the occasional lawsuit) at some elite colleges, which preach world-betterment but end up shuttling students into lucrative careers that don’t seem to have much of a public-service component.

Of course, there are some career paths — mostly in the doctors category — that offer both high pay and high psychic rewards. And if you’re a believer in the invisible-hand theory of things, pretty much any self-interested effort is, arguably, world-improving.