A bachelor's degree can be a ticket to economic success. But today, choice of school and major, as well as a student's scholastic performance, play a significant role in determining the value of a college diploma, according to two studies by economists at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

One study reveals that students who shifted from "soft" majors to "hard" majors commanded higher salaries. The more lucrative majors include fields such as business, science, and engineering.

The second study, based on analysis of graduate salaries from 260 institutions, finds that degrees from higher-ranked institutions translate into higher wages in all majors except engineering. Higher grade point averages mean higher salaries in business, education, and science, but not in engineering, health, and social science.

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