19- to 26-Months

That’s how long, on average, it will take for students who completed the Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) this year to recover the cost of attending (tuition and fees) and the year of lost earnings (pre-MSA salary). In investment terms, that’s the payback period: the length of time it takes for the cumulative gains from an investment to equal the cumulative cost. Ideally, investors—in this case students—would like the shortest possible payback period on their investment. Shorter payback periods generally have lower inherent risks. A post-graduation survey of students in the MSA Class of 2014 gives an estimated payback period of 19-months for North Carolina residents and 26-months for non-residents.

High starting salaries, modest tuition, and short time-to-completion translates into a payback period for MSA students that is half the average of what is realized in comparable 2-year professional degree programs. “The Institute is keenly focused on delivering a high ROI for our students,” said the Institute’s director, Dr. Michael Rappa. “Graduate education is expensive—not just the tuition, but also the lost wages while in school. We’ve proven that a properly designed learning experience can significantly enhance your future earning potential. For the right student, the MSA is one of the best educational investments you can make.”

NC Resident Non-Resident
Average Pre-MSA Salary:
$51,800 $58,900
(+) Tuition and Fees:
$22,900 $39,400
(–) Signing Bonus:
$5,000 $10,000
Total Investment:
$69,700 $88,300
Average Post-MSA Salary:
$95,600 $99,500
(–) Pre-MSA Salary
$51,800 $58,900
Net MSA Salary Increase:
$43,800 $40,600
Payback Period (months):
19 26
Net 3-Year ROI:
$136,400 $131,800

About the Survey:

An anonymous and voluntary survey was conducted over a 5-day period just prior to graduation in May. The response rate was 90-percent. Respondents provided information about their pre- and post-MSA annual base salaries, signing bonuses, and residency status (which determines tuition payments). Since the cost of attending differs by residency, the analysis is performed for both residents and non-residents separately. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were NC residents, and 69-percent were employed full-time in the year prior to entry. All respondents were employed full-time at graduation. Ninety-seven percent of the respondents reported an increase in salary after completing the MSA degree.

Students are assumed to lose one-year of earning, even though the MSA program is only 10-months in duration. The average pre-MSA salary is estimated based on those candidates working full-time prior to entry in the program and therefore does not include those who were part-time workers, unemployed, or full-time students. On average, NC residents have a lower pre-MSA salary, as well as a lower post-MSA salary and signing bonus because of factors related to geographic location. NC residents also have a lower tuition.

The total investment for residents (tuition and fees, and forgone earning had they continued or begun to work full-time) is estimated to be $69,700 on average. The total investment for non-residents is $88,300. The annualized net gain in earnings from the MSA degree (that is, the earnings beyond the pre-entry salary, based on those who were working full-time) is $43,800 per year for residents and $40,600 for non-residents.

The payback calculation does not take into consideration interest incurred by students who borrow to finance their education. Forty-four percent of students in the MSA Class of 2014 took on debt to pay tuition, borrowing an average of $25,000 at a median interest rate of 6-percent.