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Which Colleges Offer the Best Return on Investment?

Engineering schools ranked in the top four schools overall and seven out of the top 10 schools.for return on investment.

| BY Donald Liebenson

A college education is considered by many Americans to be one of the bedrocks of the American Dream, and study after study finds that those with a college degree have the most assured path to a good job with the most potential for career and salary advancement. The National Center for Education Statistics finds that college graduates with a bachelors degree earn 57 percent more than a high school graduate. More than eight-in-10 (84 percent) affluent investors believe a college education is necessary, according to Spectrem Group’s Millionaire Corner research. 

But as Forbes notes, tuition costs have risen faster than inflation for the last 20 years. The average tuition at a private university exceeds $31,000 annually, while the average tuition at a public university runs more than $9,000 per year, according to College Board data.

As families consider a wide variety of factors in choosing a college, (including quality of education, reputation, cost, degrees offered, scholarships, distance) it is imperative they also consider which college offers the best return on investment?

PayScale released Thursday its annual College ROI study.  The top 10 colleges with the best return on investment are:

1.      Harvey Mudd College ($985,300 20-year ROI)

2.      California Institute of Technology ($901,400)

3.      Stevens Institute of Technology ($841,000)

4.      Colorado School of Mines—In-state tuition ($831,000)

5.      Babson College ($812,800)

6.      Stanford University ($809,700)

7.      Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($798,500)

8.      Georgia Institute of Technology ($796,300)

9.      Princeton University ($795,700)

10. Colorado School of Mines—Out of state tuition ($771,000)

The second is that the 20-year Net ROI for so-called party schools is slightly higher than the average for “sober schools” ($354,400 vs. $336,000).

Among the party schools (as defined by the Princeton Review) that PayScale looked at were Syracuse University, University of Iowa, University of California-Santa Barbara, Penn State, University of Florida and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Among the "sober schools" PayScale ranked were Brigham Young University, Illinois' Wheaton College and Michigan's Calvin College, along with West Point, the Naval Academy and Coast Guard Academy.

Among the 14 school categories that PayScale reviews, graduates of the party schools enjoyed the third-largest ROI over two decades.




About the Author

Donald Liebenson


Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.