Andrew Luck and The Value of a Stanford Degree

Posted by at 3:28PM

A lot of people question the value of a Stanford degree.  Over winter break, for instance, the New York Times published this article suggesting that you can get the same value education at a state school rather than at an elite college like Stanford.

Andrew Luck’s (awesome) decision to stick around for another year offers us an opportunity, I think, to revisit this question.  Figuring out the present value of various cash flows is exactly the sort of problem that a class called engineering economy teaches you how to figure out (a class, by the way, that Luck will have to take in order to graduate).   My sports-fanatic roommate I calculated that Luck is giving up around $14.1 million dollars by sticking around for another year.

That Luck values a year at Stanford at 14.1 million suggests that the school creates value that far exceeds the value of the salary you’ll earn once you graduate.  (To be fair, Luck’s senior year may include things like a Heisman Trophy or BCS championship, events that are not common to all Stanford seniors.  But his dad cited friends and academics as reasons for staying, things we can all appreciate ). By our rough calculations, the present value of a Stanford architectural design major’s salary is a little under a million dollars.  As the graph and Andrew Luck show, a Stanford education is worth a heck of a lot more than the salary you earn once you graduate.

On the left, a common way of valuing a college education: the present value of the additional salary earned because of the degree. On the right, Andrew Luck's valuation of his college degree. Looks like senior year is more valuable than typical metrics would suggest.

Our numbers:

Here’s a few assumptions.  Let’s say Luck, as an architectural design guy, can earn the median Stanford mid-career salary of $119,000 a year.  This is generous since architects aren’t usually that valuable.  Let’s also assume that Luck plays football until he’s 35 and then immediately enters the architectural design market earning that salary.  Also, let’s give him a 10% discount rate.

The present value of Luck’s salary from his degree, then is a cool $258,583.

Let’s also make the dramatic assumption that without a college degree, Luck can’t get a job after his playing career finishes.  (This, by the way, is the worst case:  fellow Stanford quarterback John Elway just got a job as VP of Football Operations at the Broncos, for about $100,000 a year.)

We’ll also assume that Luck earns the same amount of money as an NFL quarterback whether or not he stays for an additional year.  The catch is that he’s now entering a post-lockout NFL.  Sam Bradford, last year’s #1 overall pick as a quarterback, won a 6-year $50 million contract.  My roommate estimates that Luck won’t get more than a $30-million dollar contract because of the bargaining that will happen next year.  The present value of the difference of their contracts?  A $14.37 million dollar loss for Luck.

Combine that $14.37 million dollar loss caused by the contract with the present value of Luck’s architectural design salary ($.258 million) and you see that he’s giving away about $14.1 million dollars for his senior year at Stanford.

We can take these calculations a step further.  Now that Luck has defined the value of a Stanford degree to him, let’s compare that to the present value of the degree based on its salary.  As before, we’ll assume a salary of $119,000 a year, a 10% discount rate and now a 48-year career.  We’ll also assume that without the degree you could make $20,000 per year.  Since I have to go to class, we’ll neglect the tax implications of the income tax bracket change and we get a present value of $979,000 per year.


4 Responses to “Andrew Luck and The Value of a Stanford Degree”

  1. Mike Field says:

    You people are just masters of nonsense sometimes. Andrew Luck’s career earning are unknown, but entering the NFL with more seasoning might increase his career earnings. Also, there is the issue of situation. He might have ended up in Denver if he had entered the 2011 draft. But Carolina might have taken him, and then he would have been in messy situation.

    Right now, it looks like he will go to Indianapolis where he will be line to succeed Peyton Manning. Admittedly, I am among those who do not rate Luck as the prospect of generation, but he is probably as good anyone else the current group of young QBs, and will have long career in the NFL.

    Humanness check: The (appropriately named) Leland Stanford Junior University, and, no, I did not go there.

  2. Lisa Van Dusen says:

    I interviewed Andrew Luck recently – right before he graduated – and he talked about his decision to stay and finish up at Stanford before joining the NFL.

    Here it is:

    Here are other interviews I did for my series First Person – including one with Jeremy Lin (who also finished at Harvard before joining the NBA – different situation entirely, though…)

    Here is my Jeremy Lin interview (pre-Linsanity):

    This is a fascinating topic.

    – Lisa

  3. frank says:

    The extra year might actually increase the PV of his salary.

  4. custom research paper writing help says:

    Stanford degree is quite worthy and helpful for students who are working in the field because of the education provided by their teachers .


Comments are moderated and will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive. Please do not be alarmed if your comment does not show up immediately. We will get it posted soon.