Private colleges with the best return on investment

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August 13, 2020
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Private colleges with the best return on investment

For high school graduates, choosing the right college can be one of the most important decisions in their lives. For many graduates, the college experience is the first step to figuring out who you are as an adult, and what you will do with the rest of your life. It can be a daunting decision.

On top of emotional investment, enrollment in a private college can be a financial investment, as well. American private colleges can be among the most-expensive higher learning institutions in the world. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average total for tuition and fees at private universities exceeds $35,000. Many universities are much more expensive. Harvey Mudd College, for example, costs nearly $80,000, according to CNBC. Making such a large investment in education and the future can be a reach for many students, so it's important to make sure you're getting your money's worth.

Stacker compiled a list of the private colleges with the best return on investment using a study by Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Martin Van Der Werf at Georgetown University. Nonprofit private colleges that primarily issue bachelor’s degrees were considered. Colleges are ranked by the highest 40-year ROI, with ties broken by 10-year ROI.

Considering your college's ROI factors in tuition and living expenses, student fees, food, and transportation, among others. This is matched up against prospective careers and salary expectations and potential earnings over at least 30 years.

Investing in yourself and in your future is never the wrong move, but you want to make sure it's an investment that will help you get where you're going.

Whether you're considering any of the private colleges on this list, or you graduated from college many decades ago, keep reading to discover the private colleges in America with the best return on investment.

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#100. New York University

- 40-year NPV: $1,209,000
- 10-year NPV: $49,000
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Median debt: $20,500

New York University is a private institution located in New York City. The primary campus is in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, and the university has several smaller schools and colleges that cater to different specialties.

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#99. Pace University

- 40-year NPV: $1,213,000
- 10-year NPV: $83,000
- Graduation rate: 56%
- Median debt: $19,400

Pace University is another New York City institution, though they have a second campus in Westchester County. The university is a science and liberal arts college that's considered one of the most underrated colleges in America.

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#98. Williams College

- 40-year NPV: $1,215,000
- 10-year NPV: $109,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $13,750

Williams College, located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, expects quite a bit from its small body of students. The school is a highly-respected university, according to CNBC, with a heavy focus on liberal arts. Williams College promises to meet 100% of every admitted student's financial needs, and more than half of the student body receive financial aid from the school.

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#97. Stonehill College

- 40-year NPV: $1,216,000
- 10-year NPV: $76,000
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Median debt: $26,000

Just 25 miles from Boston, Stonehill College is about more than academic performance. The school strongly encourages community service, social justice, and leadership

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#96. Tulane University of Louisiana

- 40-year NPV: $1,217,000
- 10-year NPV: $61,000
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Median debt: $22,000

Tulane University, located in the heart of New Orleans, has a well-respected law school and a School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, according to U.S. News & World Report. More than 200 student organizations exist on campus, and the student experience is well-rounded between academic learning and the immersive, cultural experience that is New Orleans.

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#95. Haverford College

- 40-year NPV: $1,217,000
- 10-year NPV: $79,000
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Median debt: $11,944

Haverford College is a small university located in Pennsylvania. The school has a student-run Honor Code that showcases the expectations and ideals of the student body. The student-to-faculty ratio is only 9-to-1, while 15-to-1 is considered a low ratio nationally, according to the Open Education Database.

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#94. Colby College

- 40-year NPV: $1,219,000
- 10-year NPV: $130,000
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Median debt: $17,799

Forbes reports that Colby College is the 12th-oldest private liberal arts college in the country. What makes it stand out is its signature “Jan Plan," which is a term that starts in January where students take time for focused learning, whether it's study abroad, taking courses in socially-responsible business, or getting involved with internships or research. The vast majority of the student body does four Jan Plans while enrolled, though the requirement is only three.

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#93. University of Miami

- 40-year NPV: $1,220,000
- 10-year NPV: $94,000
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Median debt: $17,500

The University of Miami is a private research university with more than 17,000 students from around the world. According to Niche, the most popular majors among its students are finance, nursing, economics, and psychology. The university has a 12-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.

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#92. Bellin College

- 40-year NPV: $1,220,000
- 10-year NPV: $122,000
- Graduation rate: 59%
- Median debt: $15,000

Located in Wisconsin, Bellin College is one of the top health-care colleges in the country, with a focus on nursing, radiation therapy, and radiologic sciences, among others. Its Health Sciences Resource Center offers labs and technology across a variety of medical specialties.

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#91. Davidson College

- 40-year NPV: $1,227,000
- 10-year NPV: $123,000
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Median debt: $16,489

Ranked among the top 20 national liberal arts college in America, Davidson College strives for its students to be involved in campus life. There are more than 200 student organizations on campus, as well as sports and Greek life. There are more than 20 undergraduate degrees, and according to the U.S. News & World Report, the college was the first in the country to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving students the chance to graduate without debt.

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#90. University of Rochester

- 40-year NPV: $1,228,000
- 10-year NPV: $81,000
- Graduation rate: 85%
- Median debt: $21,500

Highly-ranked University of Rochester is known for its research facilities, as well as no general education requirements. Its special curriculum, known as the "Rochester Curriculum," allows students to develop their own course and to choose a major plus a "cluster" of "three thematically-related courses."

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#89. National University

- 40-year NPV: $1,228,000
- 10-year NPV: $115,000
- Graduation rate: 40%
- Median debt: $15,625

National University is a large nonprofit school based in California. Its most popular majors for students are business, nursing, and liberal arts, and are designed for adults already in the working world. National University has a high acceptance rate, and has designed degree, certificate, and credential programs to work around the busy schedules of adults.

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#88. Southern Methodist University

- 40-year NPV: $1,229,000
- 10-year NPV: $91,000
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Median debt: $18,250

Southern Methodist University has more than 12,000 students from all over the world. The Dallas-based university is highly regarded for its Cox School of Business, as well as its law school. It has an intimate student-faculty ratio of 11-to-1 and more than half of its classes have fewer than 20 students, according to U.S. News & World Report.

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#87. Pomona College

- 40-year NPV: $1,231,000
- 10-year NPV: $142,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $11,700

Although Pomona College is in the mountains of Southern California, its founders envisioned it to be in the "New England style," meaning small classes and a close relationship between teachers and students. There is an 8-to-1 student-faculty ratio, according to U.S. News & World Report.

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#86. Syracuse University

- 40-year NPV: $1,233,000
- 10-year NPV: $69,000
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Median debt: $27,000

Syracuse University is a private research university, founded in 1870 in upstate New York. Today the university has 13 schools and colleges, and 200 customizable majors. Their SummerStart program allows first-year students to get a head start on college.

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#85. Hamilton College

- 40-year NPV: $1,241,000
- 10-year NPV: $113,000
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Median debt: $16,565

Founded in 1812, Hamilton College is a small liberal arts college with a typical enrollment of less than 2,000 people. Its bucolic campus spans 1,350 acres. One of the big selling points about Hamilton is its study abroad program. About two-thirds of the student body participate in off-campus study, in more than 100 international programs plus domestic programs in three East Coast cities.

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#84. Mount Carmel College of Nursing

- 40-year NPV: $1,241,000
- 10-year NPV: $160,000
- Graduation rate: 73%
- Median debt: $20,251

Mount Carmel College of Nursing is a small college in Ohio with an enrollment of under 1,000, offering degrees ranging from baccalaureate to doctorate. The school's Center for Innovative Learning allows students to practice their learning on patient simulators.

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#83. Saint John's University

- 40-year NPV: $1,247,000
- 10-year NPV: $111,000
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Median debt: $25,000

St. John's University is a Catholic university with campuses all over New York City, as well as Italy, France, and Ireland. More than 20,000 students study liberal arts, law, education, entrepreneurship, and pharmacy at the school.

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#82. Quinnipiac University

- 40-year NPV: $1,251,000
- 10-year NPV: $65,000
- Graduation rate: 77%
- Median debt: $21,500

With more than 50 undergraduate programs, Quinnipiac University offers diverse options for its medium-sized body of students. The school has three campuses throughout New England.

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#81. Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences

- 40-year NPV: $1,251,000
- 10-year NPV: $183,000
- Graduation rate: 72%
- Median debt: $28,121

Students interested in health sciences, particularly nursing, will find a diverse and comprehensive environment at Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences. The college works in partnership with Baptist Memorial Health Care, which gives students real-world experience. 

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#80. Molloy College

- 40-year NPV: $1,253,000
- 10-year NPV: $119,000
- Graduation rate: 73%
- Median debt: $23,000

Founded in 1955, Molloy College is a private liberal arts school in Long Island, offering more than 50 undergraduate degrees. The school offers online, blended and in-person study, plus the option of dual concentrations.

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#79. Providence College

- 40-year NPV: $1,257,000
- 10-year NPV: $56,000
- Graduation rate: 84%
- Median debt: $27,000

Providence College consists of four separate schools: School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Professional Studies, and School of Continuing Education. The top majors are finance, marketing, and biology, and the student-faculty ratio is small, compared to the national average, at 12:1.

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#78. Wellesley College

- 40-year NPV: $1,258,000
- 10-year NPV: $119,000
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Median debt: $9,675

Wellesley College is one of original Seven Sisters Colleges in America created as colleges for women. With alumni like former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, it's easy to assess the college's caliber. 

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#77. University of San Francisco

- 40-year NPV: $1,259,000
- 10-year NPV: $91,000
- Graduation rate: 75%
- Median debt: $21,953

University of San Francisco, located in the Bay Area, is one of the tougher schools to get into in the country. But the coveted degree comes with a few perks. Starting salaries for graduates exceed $60,000, and three-quarters of graduates landed a full-time job or enrolled in graduate school.

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#76. Rochester Institute of Technology

- 40-year NPV: $1,260,000
- 10-year NPV: $91,000
- Graduation rate: 66%
- Median debt: $24,250

Graduates from the Rochester Institute of Technology hold a valuable degree: That's because the university has a pretty low acceptance rate. The school works at the "intersection of technology, the arts and design," teaching students how innovation and creativity  can change the world.

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#75. Brigham Young University-Provo

- 40-year NPV: $1,275,000
- 10-year NPV: $156,000
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Median debt: $8,093

Brigham Young University-Provo, located in Provo, Utah, is a university founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to U.S. News & World Report, the specialty of the school is languages, and it offers courses in 62 different ones. The cost of education is incredibly low, compared to other private universities in the United States. The school can afford to charge less because it is subsidized by the church, which covers more than half of the operating costs.

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#74. Marquette University

- 40-year NPV: $1,280,000
- 10-year NPV: $107,000
- Graduation rate: 80%
- Median debt: $24,250

Marquette University, located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a mid-size university with undergraduate and graduate students "from nearly every state and 64 countries." There are more than 80 possible majors, and pre-professional programs for aspiring dentists, lawyers, and doctors. Within a year of graduating, about three-quarters of students are employed full time. The majority of the rest have gone on to grad school or are part of a stipend-paid post-graduate service. 

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#73. Wake Forest University

- 40-year NPV: $1,282,000
- 10-year NPV: $86,000
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Median debt: $22,750

Wake Forest University, located in North Carolina, is ranked in the top 30 of national universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. It's also ranked highly for best value. Niche reports that within two years of graduation, more than 90% of the student body is able to find a job, at median earnings of over $50,000.

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#72. Capitol Technology University

- 40-year NPV: $1,288,000
- 10-year NPV: $90,000
- Graduation rate: 52%
- Median debt: $16,625

Capitol Technology University, located in Maryland, has an acceptance rate of less than 70%. The Capitol Commitment is one selling point: Students who earn a qualified bachelor's degree are awarded 36 additional undergraduate credits if they aren't hired within 90 days. U.S. News & World Report notes that alumni earn starting salaries of more than $70,000

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#71. Boston University

- 40-year NPV: $1,294,000
- 10-year NPV: $70,000
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Median debt: $23,500

Boston University has turned out some seriously-impressive alumni, from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Karen Lynch and Julianne Moore. The Boston institution reports that almost 95% of graduates find employment or placement in graduate programs, military service, or fellowships within six months. The graduates of Boston University have landed careers at jobs like Apple, Deloitte, Google, Tesla, U.S. Department of State, among others.

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#70. Wentworth Institute of Technology

- 40-year NPV: $1,299,000
- 10-year NPV: $79,000
- Graduation rate: 66%
- Median debt: $22,500

Boston's Wentworth Institute of Technology is a small school with an enrollment of just over 4,000. The school presents a rigorous and challenging program, with a graduation rate of over 65%. According to Indeed, the most popular degrees are engineering, business/marketing, and computer sciences.

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#69. Pepperdine University

- 40-year NPV: $1,312,000
- 10-year NPV: $85,000
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Median debt: $24,250

Pepperdine is one of the more exclusive schools in the nation, with an acceptance rate of less than one in three, and an enrollment of over 3,000. It consists of five different schools, focusing on business, education and psychology, law, liberal arts, and public policy. More than 80% of students enhance their education through student employment, teaching, and internships, according to Forbes.

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#68. Union College

- 40-year NPV: $1,317,000
- 10-year NPV: $91,000
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Median debt: $23,000

Students at Union College who are pursuing a career in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) conduct research that spans disciplines. Grant money from the National Science Foundation helps the school invest in students who are gifted, female, and/or from underrepresented communities.

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#67. University of Richmond

- 40-year NPV: $1,317,000
- 10-year NPV: $108,000
- Graduation rate: 88%
- Median debt: $19,500

Virginia's University of Richmond is a small college with just over 3,000 undergraduates representing more than 60 different countries. The employment rate within one year of graduation is over 90%, and the average salary is more than $50,000.

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#66. Colgate University

- 40-year NPV: $1,322,000
- 10-year NPV: $130,000
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Median debt: $15,500

Founded in 1819 in upstate New York, Colgate University sits among the top 20 national liberal arts colleges in U.S. News & World Report rankings. The small school has an undergraduate enrollment of less than 3,000. Money.com ranks it in the top 100 best colleges in America in terms of value for money.

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#65. Ohio Northern University

- 40-year NPV: $1,326,000
- 10-year NPV: $136,000
- Graduation rate: 77%
- Median debt: $24,466

Ohio Northern University is made up of five colleges dedicated to arts & sciences, business administration, engineering, pharmacy, and law. PayScale reports that Ohio Northern University graduates make an average salary of over $70,000, with an early career salary of more than $50,000.

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#64. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona

- 40-year NPV: $1,327,000
- 10-year NPV: $86,000
- Graduation rate: 57%
- Median debt: $12,250

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona is a specialized school that focuses on seven primary fields of study, including aviation, applied science, technology, engineering, and space. PayScale ranks Embry-Riddle in the top 100 for return on investment. Average salaries for graduates are more than $80,000.

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#63. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott

- 40-year NPV: $1,328,000
- 10-year NPV: $87,000
- Graduation rate: 61%
- Median debt: $12,250

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has a campus in Arizona, as well, which offers a similar return on investment to the Daytona campus. According to PayScale, Prescott campus graduates earn an early career salary of almost $70,000.

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#62. Manhattan College

- 40-year NPV: $1,333,000
- 10-year NPV: $115,000
- Graduation rate: 73%
- Median debt: $21,500

Manhattan College alumni are in a great position once they have that piece of paper in their hand. With New York City as its backdrop, there is no shortage of opportunity for hands-on experience. In fact, more than 80% of students gain job-related experience while attending. Graduates land roles at top companies including Newsweek, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Morgan Stanley.

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#61. Trinity College

- 40-year NPV: $1,335,000
- 10-year NPV: $96,000
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Median debt: $19,000

Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, is a small liberal arts college with just over 2,000 undergraduates. Alumni have become Pulitzer Prize winners, Fulbright and Watson scholars, and MacArthur Fellows

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#60. Amherst College

- 40-year NPV: $1,343,000
- 10-year NPV: $125,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $12,000

Amherst College, located in bucolic Amherst, Massachusetts, is traditionally ranked as one of the elite small colleges in the country. There are no required courses, which gives students greater control over designing their own curricula. Amherst also pledges to meet each of its students' financial needs, and a significant number have graduated without loan debt.

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#59. Bowdoin College

- 40-year NPV: $1,350,000
- 10-year NPV: $122,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $16,778

Bowdoin College, located in Brunswick, Maine, is a small university that encompasses a variety of specialties, from math and sciences to social sciences and visual and performing arts. According to CNBC, the median salary for alumni in the first five years after graduation is just under $60,000.

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#58. Loyola University Maryland

- 40-year NPV: $1,363,000
- 10-year NPV: $86,000
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Median debt: $26,511

Loyola University Maryland is a Jesuit university, and was the first higher learning institution in the U.S. to be founded by the Society of Jesus. The liberal arts university has an undergraduate enrollment of more than 5,000. More than 95% of students are working, attending graduate school, serving in the military, or volunteering within six months post-graduation.

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#57. Emory University

- 40-year NPV: $1,372,000
- 10-year NPV: $135,000
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Median debt: $18,222

Emory University fosters a competitive academic environment, rounded out with athletic opportunities and the culture of Atlanta. More than 80% of graduates were employed or continuing their education at graduate school within three months of graduation. Top employers of Emory grads include Google and National Institutes of Health.

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#56. Drexel University

- 40-year NPV: $1,374,000
- 10-year NPV: $84,000
- Graduation rate: 70%
- Median debt: $20,500

Drexel University is one of the largest private universities in the country. More than 90% of graduates from the school have a job or are enrolled in a graduate program after graduation. Alumni earnings are more than 20% above the national average.

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#55. Brown University

- 40-year NPV: $1,377,000
- 10-year NPV: $112,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $15,439

Rhode Island's Brown University is one of the most prestigious institutions in the country—it's in the Ivy League, after all. Students love it for the unadulterated academic freedom, with few to no course requirements. Grades are optional, as well, which is another student favorite. PayScale reports that graduates earn more than 70,000 annually in the first five years after graduation.

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#54. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science

- 40-year NPV: $1,378,000
- 10-year NPV: $161,000
- Graduation rate: 86%
- Median debt: $10,000

Cooper Union for The Advancement of Science and Art is an incredibly unique higher learning institution in New York's East Village. It focuses on art, architecture, and engineering, and is one of the most exclusive schools in the country; its 2020 acceptance rate was just 18%. This elite group of graduates are usually successful right out of the gate, with an early career salary average of over $70,000, according to PayScale.

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#53. Northeastern University

- 40-year NPV: $1,385,000
- 10-year NPV: $122,000
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Median debt: $25,000

Northeastern University's claim to fame is its Cooperative Education program, an experiential learning program that alternates semesters of study with full-time work. The real-life experience certainly pays off. Graduates have a median early career salary of around $65,000, according to PayScale.

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#52. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide

- 40-year NPV: $1,391,000
- 10-year NPV: $151,000
- Graduation rate: 25%
- Median debt: $12,250

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide is an online, specialized school that offers courses in the field of aviation. They are one of the top schools in the country for aeronautical engineering. U.S. News & World Report ranked it one of the best online bachelor's programs. According to Niche, the median earnings six years after graduation are over $65,000.

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#51. Bryant University

- 40-year NPV: $1,393,000
- 10-year NPV: $94,000
- Graduation rate: 78%
- Median debt: $26,000

Bryant University sets itself apart by combining business with liberal arts, requiring its students to complete a major and a minor: one in liberal arts and one in business. Its students participate in internships with a variety of high-profile firms, from Fortune 500 companies to government agencies, as well as international nonprofits. Niche reports that almost all students are employed within two years of graduation.

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#50. Rice University

- 40-year NPV: $1,393,000
- 10-year NPV: $167,000
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Median debt: $10,000

Rice University is one of the most prestigious universities in the South, with an acceptance rate of less than 9%. It may not be a traditional Ivy League school, but according to Paper City magazine, its graduates are doing a lot better than those on the East Coast. Rice grads are cashing some of the largest paychecks in the country.

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#49. Lafayette College

- 40-year NPV: $1,409,000
- 10-year NPV: $123,000
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Median debt: $22,500

Lafayette College is a small liberal arts school located in Pennsylvania. The tight-knit community focuses on a variety of majors, from engineering and science to liberal arts. Graduates land at companies including Pfizer and Siemens, Inc.

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#48. Bucknell University

- 40-year NPV: $1,417,000
- 10-year NPV: $90,000
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Median debt: $25,250

Pennsylvania's Bucknell University is an elite liberal arts college with a small student body, that prides itself on faculty-taught classes. Its students reap the benefits, as 96% of graduates secured opportunities within nine months, working in industries including financial services and technology.

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#47. George Washington University

- 40-year NPV: $1,418,000
- 10-year NPV: $114,000
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Median debt: $21,500

Located in Washington, D.C., George Washington University offers programs in international affairs, political science, and business. According to the university's career services, more than 90% of undergraduates secured plans within six months of graduation, with four in 10 earning more than $60,000 as a starting salary.

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#46. University of Chicago

- 40-year NPV: $1,420,000
- 10-year NPV: $144,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $14,853

The University of Chicago is one of the most selective in the country. In fact, U.S. News & World Report says the acceptance rate is only 6%. The university is notoriously tough on grades, but there is a graduation rate of almost 95%. PayScale reports that the median early career salary is over $65,000.

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56 / 100
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#45. College of the Holy Cross

- 40-year NPV: $1,421,000
- 10-year NPV: $90,000
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Median debt: $27,000

One of New England's top Jesuit colleges, College of the Holy Cross promises to meet 100% of the demonstrated need of its students. Perhaps that's why its students are among the most motivated in the country, with a mean early career salary of over $60,000.

57 / 100
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#44. Washington University in St Louis

- 40-year NPV: $1,448,000
- 10-year NPV: $134,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $18,500

Washington University in St. Louis is a private research university, popular for engineering, social sciences, and business. Plus its location within St. Louis means students have ample opportunity for culture and a social life. Mean early career salaries for graduates is almost $70,000.

58 / 100
Stagophile // Wikimedia Commons

#43. Fairfield University

- 40-year NPV: $1,454,000
- 10-year NPV: $103,000
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Median debt: $23,000

Southern Connecticut's Fairfield University has a student body of roughly 4,000 undergrads. Its most popular majors include business, marketing, and nursing. According to a study published by Georgetown University, Fairfield University is in the top 1% of institutions for ROI. Mean early career salary is over $60,000, according to PayScale.

59 / 100
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#42. Northwestern University

- 40-year NPV: $1,455,000
- 10-year NPV: $162,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $16,500

Ranked by Niche as one of the top colleges for communications in the country, Northwestern University is a mid-size school with an enrollment of around 8,000 students. Popular majors include economics, psychology, and journalism. Two years after graduation, the median salary for graduates is almost $60,000.

60 / 100
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#41. Illinois Institute of Technology

- 40-year NPV: $1,462,000
- 10-year NPV: $167,000
- Graduation rate: 72%
- Median debt: $22,500

Illinois Institute of Technology is one of the country's leaders in tech studies. Top majors include aerospace engineering, artificial intelligence, and astrophysics, among others. Mean early career salaries are almost $70,000, according to PayScale.

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61 / 100
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#40. Vanderbilt University

- 40-year NPV: $1,462,000
- 10-year NPV: $169,000
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Median debt: $13,440

Located just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University is known for its beautiful campus and its top-rated medical school. Graduates earn an early career salary of almost $70,000, going on to hold professions like psychiatric nurse practitioner, software engineer, and family nurse practitioner, according to PayScale.

62 / 100
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#39. University of the Pacific

- 40-year NPV: $1,472,000
- 10-year NPV: $129,000
- Graduation rate: 69%
- Median debt: $20,121

University of the Pacific has a student body of less than 4,000 undergraduates. According to Niche, the most popular majors are business, biology, liberal arts, and humanities. Almost 90% of students receive grants for tuition, reports Money.com. Median earnings six years after graduation are more than $70,000, writes Niche.

63 / 100
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#38. Boston College

- 40-year NPV: $1,476,000
- 10-year NPV: $117,000
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Median debt: $18,962

With Boston as its backyard, Boston College offers both a rigorous academic environment and a cultural experience. The Jesuit university has more than 9,000 undergrads. Ninety-five percent of the class of 2019 are currently employed, enrolled in graduate school, or involved in a fellowship or volunteer program.

64 / 100
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#37. Clarkson University

- 40-year NPV: $1,482,000
- 10-year NPV: $132,000
- Graduation rate: 72%
- Median debt: $24,250

Clarkson University in upstate New York has a strong presence in the STEM world. In fact, its Center for Advanced Materials Processing is sponsored by Xerox and Corning. According to the university, 97% of all 2019 graduates had found a full-time job in their chosen field, entered grad school, or joined the military within six months. The average starting salary for graduates is over $70,000.

65 / 100
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#36. Santa Clara University

- 40-year NPV: $1,493,000
- 10-year NPV: $133,000
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Median debt: $19,166

Santa Clara University in sunny Southern California fosters a competitive environment with a focus on business, social sciences, and engineering. The median annual earnings for graduates within the first five years were over $70,000.

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66 / 100
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#35. Johns Hopkins University

- 40-year NPV: $1,508,000
- 10-year NPV: $136,000
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Median debt: $12,645

One of the primary research universities in the country, Johns Hopkins University has rigorous academic standards and an acceptance rate of 10%, according to U.S. News & World Report. The magazine also ranked the university in the top 10 nationally.

67 / 100
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#34. Claremont McKenna College

- 40-year NPV: $1,516,000
- 10-year NPV: $150,000
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Median debt: $13,000

Claremont McKenna's students tend to have a focus on political science and economics. The student body is small, hovering at just around 1,000 students. Niche reports that more than 90% of students land employment within two years of graduation.

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#33. Case Western Reserve University

- 40-year NPV: $1,519,000
- 10-year NPV: $121,000
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Median debt: $22,000

Case Western Reserve University is a small university in Cleveland, Ohio, known for its research and top-rated graduate programs, particularly healthcare and law. Its graduates land jobs in industries like engineering, nursing, research and science.

69 / 100
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#32. University of Southern California

- 40-year NPV: $1,520,000
- 10-year NPV: $133,000
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Median debt: $21,250

University of Southern California is one of the largest private institutions in the country, with an undergraduate student body of about 20,000. The Los Angeles location puts its students at the doorstep of world-class industries and opportunities. PayScale reports that the average salary for graduates is over $85,000.

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#31. Milwaukee School of Engineering

- 40-year NPV: $1,520,000
- 10-year NPV: $183,000
- Graduation rate: 65%
- Median debt: $25,500

Research and technology are the focus at Milwaukee School of Engineering, a small university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. According to Money.com, more than 90% of students receive grants. The average starting salary for graduates is over $65,000.

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71 / 100
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#30. Tufts University

- 40-year NPV: $1,543,000
- 10-year NPV: $122,000
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Median debt: $16,052

Tufts University is one of the top universities in the country. Though not technically Ivy League, it delivers a similar quality education. Not far from Boston, the students have a campus environment with the opportunities and cultural experiences of a major city nearby. Niche reports that more than 90% of graduates find job placement within two years of graduating.

72 / 100
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#29. Dartmouth College

- 40-year NPV: $1,561,000
- 10-year NPV: $146,000
- Graduation rate: 96%
- Median debt: $12,000

Dartmouth University is a small Ivy League school located in New Hampshire. It offers a blend of research facilities and liberal arts, with the backdrop of New England beauty. Government majors seem to fare the best, according to an article in The Dartmouth, which reports that they are the highest paid among graduates with government majors at similar institutions, earning $59,000.

73 / 100
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#28. Villanova University

- 40-year NPV: $1,563,000
- 10-year NPV: $103,000
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Median debt: $25,000

Villanova University is the only Augustinian Catholic university in the country, and is well-regarded for its business curriculum. More than 90% of Villanova students are successfully placed after graduation, at an average starting salary of over $60,000.

74 / 100
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#27. Washington and Lee University

- 40-year NPV: $1,578,000
- 10-year NPV: $152,000
- Graduation rate: 92%
- Median debt: $19,500

Washington and Lee University is well-regarded for the volume of financial aid that it awards its students. The university pledges to meet 100% of determined need for its students, via grants and employment. Money.com says that two-thirds of the student body graduates without debt. The average salary for graduates is over $75,000.

75 / 100
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#26. Cornell University

- 40-year NPV: $1,607,000
- 10-year NPV: $160,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $12,305

Students enrolled in Cornell have an advantage extended to them—if they enroll in its colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Industrial and Labor Relations, or Human Ecology, they pay $15,000 less per year than those enrolled in the rest of the university. The median salary range for graduates is over $65,000.

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#25. University of Notre Dame

- 40-year NPV: $1,626,000
- 10-year NPV: $157,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $20,750

This highly-selective Catholic university has a student body made up of the top 10% of high school graduates. It offers rigorous curricula across a variety of majors, but is particularly known for its challenging pre-med track. That said, more than 85% of pre-med graduates are admitted to medical school, which is nearly double the national average.

77 / 100
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#24. Princeton University

- 40-year NPV: $1,642,000
- 10-year NPV: $242,000
- Graduation rate: 97%
- Median debt: $7,500

Princeton University is one of the most elite schools in the country, but that doesn't make it financially unattainable. For families with income that is less than $65,000, students qualify for a free ride. The average grant for an aid student is more than $56,000. As a result of these programs, more than 80% of recent graduates ed up debt-free.

78 / 100
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#23. Kettering University

- 40-year NPV: $1,662,000
- 10-year NPV: $153,000
- Graduation rate: 57%
- Median debt: $24,500

Kettering University is known for its unique style of teaching, which combines experiential learning opportunities with an academic program that's hardcore, particularly in engineering, science, math, and business. As a result, its graduates earn, on average, more than any other graduates in the state of Michigan.

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#22. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

- 40-year NPV: $1,665,000
- 10-year NPV: $149,000
- Graduation rate: 82%
- Median debt: $27,000

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is one of the top engineering schools in the country, and is a global leader in STEM education. Two years after graduation, median annual earnings are over $70,000.

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#21. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

- 40-year NPV: $1,687,000
- 10-year NPV: $150,000
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Median debt: $27,000

Although the focus at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is on science, engineering, and math, it has recently started bolstering its humanities, arts, and communication departments. PayScale reports that median starting salaries for graduates are over $70,000.

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81 / 100
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#20. Lehigh University

- 40-year NPV: $1,688,000
- 10-year NPV: $153,000
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Median debt: $21,500

Lehigh University is a private research institution that is known for its business and engineering programs. The university reports that 95% are employed, continuing their education, or pursuing military or volunteer opportunities. Lehigh ranks in the top 25 universities for earning a bachelor's degree, according to PayScale. 

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#19. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

- 40-year NPV: $1,725,000
- 10-year NPV: $133,000
- Graduation rate: 87%
- Median debt: $27,000

Worcester Polytechnic Institute requires its undergrads to kick off their college career in the Great Problems Seminar, which is a collection of courses that link science and technology with issues regarding health, energy, transportation, and housing. According to a post-graduation report conducted by the university, graduates received more than $70,000 on average as a starting salary.

83 / 100
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#18. Carnegie Mellon University

- 40-year NPV: $1,750,000
- 10-year NPV: $183,000
- Graduation rate: 89%
- Median debt: $24,500

Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University is known for its programs in computer science, engineering, and technology. Graduates are hired by companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, and the median salary since 2017 is $85,000.

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#17. Duke University

- 40-year NPV: $1,754,000
- 10-year NPV: $173,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $9,000

Duke University is one of the most selective schools in the country: There was an overall acceptance rate of 6% for the class of 2024, according to The Chronicle. For those who are elite enough to enter the fold, on average they are rewarded after graduation. According to PayScale, the median early career salary for Duke graduates is over $75,000.

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#16. Columbia University in the City of New York

- 40-year NPV: $1,769,000
- 10-year NPV: $208,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $18,794

Columbia University in New York City is one of the most expensive schools in the country, with an estimated tuition price of more than $77,000, according to Money.com. PayScale notes that median early career salaries for graduates are more than $75,000.

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86 / 100
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#15. Yale University

- 40-year NPV: $1,777,000
- 10-year NPV: $218,000
- Graduation rate: 98%
- Median debt: $12,000

Yale University is an elite private institution that promises to meet the full demonstrated financial need of its students. As a result, Money.com reports that 85% of Yale graduates from the class of 2020 were debt free.

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#14. Bentley University

- 40-year NPV: $1,786,000
- 10-year NPV: $158,000
- Graduation rate: 90%
- Median debt: $25,000

Bentley University is one of the top business schools in the country, with an emphasis on social impact. According to the university, 98% of graduates are employed within six months, with an average salary of over $60,000.

88 / 100
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#13. California Institute of Technology

- 40-year NPV: $1,810,000
- 10-year NPV: $200,000
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Median debt: $11,500

California Institute of Technology, or Caltech as it's often called, is a leading institution for engineering and physical sciences, with an emphasis on world-class internships. PayScale reports an early career salary of over $85,000.

89 / 100
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#12. University of Pennsylvania

- 40-year NPV: $1,832,000
- 10-year NPV: $222,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $12,500

Highly selective with a rigorous academic program, University of Pennsylvania is an elite university, specifically for business and economics. According to Business Insider, graduates of the business program at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania are among the highest paid in the country.

90 / 100
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#11. Stevens Institute of Technology

- 40-year NPV: $1,833,000
- 10-year NPV: $162,000
- Graduation rate: 83%
- Median debt: $26,000

Stevens Institute of Technology offers its students 11 core research areas across business and finance, data science, energy, sustainability, and more. The teaching style combines academic learning with real-world experience like internships, senior design projects, and entrepreneurship courses. According to the university, 95% of 2020 graduates secured employment or admission to graduate school within six months of graduation.

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#10. Harvey Mudd College

- 40-year NPV: $1,851,000
- 10-year NPV: $187,000
- Graduation rate: 95%
- Median debt: $21,254

Harvey Mudd is one of the most expensive schools to attend in the country. But what students pay for is a world-class science and engineering program. Also, graduates are among the highest earning in the country early on, with an early career salary of $85,600, according to CNBC.

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#9. University of the Sciences

- 40-year NPV: $1,928,000
- 10-year NPV: $211,000
- Graduation rate: 71%
- Median debt: $27,000

With a focus in health care and science, University of the Sciences is a top university for pharmacology. According to Niche, USciences is one of the best value colleges in America, with an annual tuition of less than $35,000 and median six-year salary of over $90,00.

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#8. Georgetown University

- 40-year NPV: $1,950,000
- 10-year NPV: $198,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $14,750

Georgetown University is the country's oldest Jesuit institution. And although it may be one of the most expensive universities in the country, it has sizable payoff. According to PayScale, the average salary for Georgetown graduates is over $80,000.

94 / 100
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#7. Harvard University

- 40-year NPV: $1,967,000
- 10-year NPV: $286,000
- Graduation rate: 97%
- Median debt: $7,000

It's one of the most renowned institutions in the world. Harvard University has a reputation that is synonymous with excellence. It's a university that offers help to families in need, with those who come from families earning less than $65,000 getting a free ride. Most Harvard students are without debt, and according to PayScale, the average salary for graduates is more than $90,000.

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#6. Babson College

- 40-year NPV: $1,985,000
- 10-year NPV: $184,000
- Graduation rate: 91%
- Median debt: $24,875

Babson College is a one-stop-shop for business. That's because the school only offers one undergraduate degree, and that's a B.S. in business. Monster.com places Babson College in the top six for colleges whose students get the most pay after graduation, with a median starting salary of almost $60,000.

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96 / 100
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#5. Stanford University

- 40-year NPV: $2,068,000
- 10-year NPV: $307,000
- Graduation rate: 94%
- Median debt: $10,874

Stanford University is one of the premier colleges in California, as well as the rest of the country. It is the toughest school to get into, with an acceptance rate of just over 4%. According to Forbes, Stanford is one of the top 15 colleges in the country in terms of high earnings for its graduates.

97 / 100
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#4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

- 40-year NPV: $2,273,000
- 10-year NPV: $311,000
- Graduation rate: 93%
- Median debt: $15,346

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the most competitive, and widely respected, science schools in the country. PayScale shows an early career salary of close to $90,000.

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#3. Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health

- 40-year NPV: $2,421,000
- 10-year NPV: $247,000
- Graduation rate: 76%
- Median debt: $25,000

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has been in existence for nearly 200 years. It has a relatively low tuition at less than $40,000 a year, with a high earning potential for its graduates. Niche reports median earnings of $116,000 six years after graduation.

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#2. St. Louis College of Pharmacy

- 40-year NPV: $2,714,000
- 10-year NPV: $389,000
- Graduation rate: 72%
- Median debt: $19,500

Pharmacy colleges are the hidden goldmine among U.S. institutions. They offer a relatively low cost for tuition, plus high salaries for graduates. St. Louis College of Pharmacy is a small university with an enrollment of less than 400. Niche reports that the price of tuition is less than $30,000, and median earnings six years after graduation are over $124,000.

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#1. Albany College of Pharmacy and Health

- 40-year NPV: $2,722,000
- 10-year NPV: $385,000
- Graduation rate: 74%
- Median debt: $25,000

The best school in the country for ROI is Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. This private institution offers lower tuition than most post-secondary institutions, according to U.S. News & World Report. PayScale reports that median salary six years after graduation is almost $125,000. The majority of students go on to careers as pharmacists, hospital pharmacy directors, chief operating officers, and clinical pharmacists.

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