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Public colleges with the best return on investment

  • Public colleges with the best return on investment

    According to Investopedia, in 2019, the amount of student debt in the United States reached an all-time high of $1.41 trillion. Almost 15% of adults over the age of 18 currently have outstanding student loan debt, averaging $35,359 per person. As these numbers rise, more and more people begin to wonder if college is a sound investment. A recent study by Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Martin Van Der Werf at Georgetown University says yes. According to the researchers, workers who hold a bachelor’s degree make 80% more than workers who only have a high school diploma. When you consider the long term this way, it becomes clear: pursuing some form of higher education is often worth the money, regardless of the debt.

    That being said, not all colleges are created equal. The same Georgetown University study shows that you get a bigger return on investment attending certain schools than you do when you choose to attend others. In order to help future students make a more informed decision, the team behind the study ranked 4,500 public colleges, determining those that were good financial options, and those the average student should give a pass.

    To do this, the team used data collected by College Scorecard in 2019. Considering only public schools that predominantly grant bachelor’s degrees, the study compared debt (using the median principal loan amount) to average earnings (taken every six, eight, and ten years) to come up with a net present value, which was used as a ranking device. The net present value measures the projected earnings of an investment against the anticipated costs, both in today’s dollars and taking into account discounting interest rates, to determine whether an investment is worth making or not. Colleges were then ranked by the highest 40-year ROI, with ties broken by 10-year ROI.

    In the following slides, Stacker takes a closer look at the public colleges with the best return on investment, highlighting important information, like student-to-teacher ratios, degree offerings, and average tuition costs, as well as individual things that make these particular colleges well worth the investment. From Cal State Sacramento to the Maine Maritime Academy, read on to see which colleges the money-conscious student should be considering.

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  • #100. California State University-Sacramento

    - 40-year NPV: $1,061,000
    - 10-year NPV: $144,000
    - Graduation rate: 48%
    - Median debt: $12,500

    Located just a few miles outside California’s capital city, Sacramento State offers 64 bachelor’s degree programs, including popular majors like nursing, computer science, business administration, and communications. The four-year university recently launched two new initiatives, “Finish in Four” and “Through in Two,” which aim to improve on-time graduation rates, thereby decreasing students’ overall debt. In 2019, the campaigns increased four-year graduation rates to 20.4% and two-year graduation rates to 42%, outpacing similar initiatives on all California State University campuses.

  • #99. Pennsylvania State University-Penn State New Kensington

    - 40-year NPV: $1,064,000
    - 10-year NPV: $125,000
    - Graduation rate: 48%
    - Median debt: $19,500

    Pennsylvania State University’s New Kensington campus is a small branch of the state-wide public university, with approximately 700 students. Located just outside of Pittsburgh, its main draw is the “2+2” program, which allows students to complete the first two years of their bachelor’s degree at the lower-cost campus before transferring to a larger, more-expensive campus for their last two years. Savings vary depending on the program and campuses chosen by the student, but are proven to be significant.

  • #98. Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Abington

    - 40-year NPV: $1,064,000
    - 10-year NPV: $125,000
    - Graduation rate: 48%
    - Median debt: $19,500

    A suburban campus just north of Philadelphia, Penn State Abington offers 20 bachelor’s degrees and the ability to complete the first two years of any of the university’s 275 courses of study through the “2+2” program. The college’s Career and Professional Development department also goes to great lengths to help soon-to-be graduates and alumni begin high-paying career paths, ensuring that they’ll be able to pay off all debt in a timely manner.

  • #97. Pennsylvania State University-Penn State Scranton

    - 40-year NPV: $1,065,000
    - 10-year NPV: $126,000
    - Graduation rate: 38%
    - Median debt: $19,500

    Along with the 11 complete baccalaureate degrees Penn State Scranton offers, students at the university also have access to a host of professional education programs, like Spanish in the Workplace and Fundamentals in Cybersecurity. In a competitive job market, these additional skills set applicants apart and lead to an increased chance of gainful employment. The more gainful the employment, the easier it is to pay off any acquired debt.

  • #96. University of Massachusetts-Amherst

    - 40-year NPV: $1,066,000
    - 10-year NPV: $102,000
    - Graduation rate: 77%
    - Median debt: $20,600

    With over 250,000 living alumni holding degrees in 109 programs, the networking opportunities for University of Massachusetts-Amherst students are invaluable. One 2016 study completed by LinkedIn found that nearly 85% of people found their job through networking, meaning having a field of potential connections of this size could go a long way in helping a graduate land a career-level job.

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  • #95. Towson University

    - 40-year NPV: $1,066,000
    - 10-year NPV: $114,000
    - Graduation rate: 71%
    - Median debt: $14,759

    One of the top 100 public universities in the United States, and the largest university in the Baltimore area, Towson University has an undergraduate student body of just under 20,000. Popular majors include nursing, information technology, computer science, and business administration—all stable fields that offer comparatively high salaries.

  • #94. Pennsylvania State University- Penn State Fayette-Eberly

    - 40-year NPV: $1,066,000
    - 10-year NPV: $127,000
    - Graduation rate: 47%
    - Median debt: $19,500

    Penn State Fayette-Eberly has a unique program, called LaunchBox, which makes the cost of tuition well worth it for entrepreneurs. LaunchBox is a no-cost business accelerator that connects startups with the resources and mentorship they need to grow. Available to students and alumni, the program adds infinite value to the school’s $13,000-$15,000 annual tuition.

  • #93. University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus

    - 40-year NPV: $1,068,000
    - 10-year NPV: $110,000
    - Graduation rate: 67%
    - Median debt: $15,000

    The University of Oklahoma offers more than 170 academic programs, including petroleum engineering and dance, which are both nationally-ranked. With just over 20,000 students, the public college offers a private school experience, in terms of class size and interaction with professors, for a public school cost.

  • #92. Pennsylvania State University- Penn State Lehigh Valley

    - 40-year NPV: $1,068,000
    - 10-year NPV: $129,000
    - Graduation rate: 56%
    - Median debt: $19,500

    While Penn State Lehigh Valley only offers nine complete majors, students can finish the first two years of any of the university’s 250 offerings at the smaller campus. This allows students to pay community college level tuition for the first two years of a baccalaureate program without the hassle and added costs of a full-blown transfer. That's an attractive option for those looking to earn a degree without being saddled with debt.

  • #91. CUNY Queens College

    - 40-year NPV: $1,068,000
    - 10-year NPV: $165,000
    - Graduation rate: 57%
    - Median debt: $7,750

    For the past 28 years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked CUNY Queens College as a “best value college” thanks to its academic programs, generous financial aid, and overall affordability. Additionally, it has been ranked in the top 1% of schools that move students from poverty to prosperity, thanks, in large part, to its pre-professional programs, as well as its education and technology courses of study.

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