SLOWER PAYOFF FOR B-SCHOOL GRADS
By Alan Deutschman

(FORTUNE Magazine) – An MBA degree doesn't recoup its cost nearly as fast as it used to. In a front-page story, Columbia business school's student newspaper, the Bottom Line, compared its graduates' average starting salaries over two decades with their annual tuitions. Since 1968 the ratio has fallen dramatically, from 6.3 ($12,600 in starting salary divided by $2,000 tuition) to 3.3 ($53,000/ $16,300) in 1991. Columbia seems to keep better records than other B-schools. But smaller ratios are probably common: All schools have increased tuition, and their grads face much the same job market as Columbia's.

Happy ending: Amer Yaqub, the second-year MBA candidate who wrote the Bottom Line's story, has landed a position as a brand manager at Quaker Oats in Chicago; he won't reveal his salary. Incidentally, he wrote his story only after he got the job. Says he: ''Otherwise I wouldn't have had the heart to write it.''

CHART: NOT AVAILABLE CREDIT: FORTUNE CHART/SOURCE: THE BOTTOM LINE CAPTION: LESS BANG PER BUCK