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100 colleges with the best ROI

  • 100 colleges with the best ROI

    They say the college years are the best of your life. They shape the way you see the world, the passions you wish to pursue, and the person you hope to be. But much more than an emotional, personal, and professional starting point, college is a significant financial investment.

    In the last 10 years, the cost of college has gone up by more than 25%, according to CNBC. For the 2019 academic year, private colleges cost an average of $48,510 per year, and public ones cost $21,370. After four years, and in many cases five to six years, that cost can stack up significantly, so you’re going to want to ensure that you’re putting your dollars into an institution that is going to make it worth your while. Luckily, those who have a bachelor’s degree earn about $32,000 more annually than those without, reports the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities. But some colleges have a higher return on investment than others.

    Stacker compiled a list of the colleges with the best return on investment, using a 2019 study by Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Martin Van Der Werf at Georgetown University. 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. The study considered net present value, balancing today's costs against future earnings.

    Universities that specialize in STEM studies (science, technology, engineering, and math) tend to have a higher return on investment for their graduates. STEM has gained ground over the past 10 years as more and more careers have a need for science and tech knowledge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 8.5 million STEM jobs in 2015, which represented 6.2% of employment in the United States. Ninety-three percent of STEM occupations have wages above the national average, as well.

    Colleges that focus in pharmaceuticals also show the strongest return on investment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 there were more than 300,000 pharmacist jobs, and the median wage was $128,090.

    Now it's time to take a look at the colleges that made the cut. Keep reading to see the 100 colleges with the best ROI. Is your college on the list?

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  • #100. Wake Forest University

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

    North Carolina's Wake Forest University is composed of six separate schools on a 340-acre campus. It is renowned for its sports program, as well as its graduate programs in law, business, and medicine. It's ranked #28 on U.S. News & World Report's 2021 edition of Best Colleges.

  • #99. University of Connecticut-Waterbury Campus

    - 40-year net present value: $1,283,000
    - 10-year net present value: $189,000
    - Graduation rate: 58%
    - Median debt: $18,750

    The University of Connecticut-Waterbury Campus is a small institution with an enrollment of less than 1,000. Roughly 58% of its graduates go on to full-time employment, while 23% pursue higher education. The mean starting salary for graduates is $55,390.

  • #98. University of Connecticut-Stamford

    - 40-year net present value: $1,288,000
    - 10-year net present value: $193,000
    - Graduation rate: 61%
    - Median debt: $18,750

    The University of Connecticut-Stamford campus is located in Fairfield County, with close proximity to New York City and the major metropolises of the tri-state area. As such, the university allows for internships, field placements, and jobs with Fortune 500 companies, investment and banking institutions, community agencies, and nonprofit organizations. Fifty-seven percent of students who graduated in 2019 reported finding full-time employment, while 28% were seeking graduate programs, according to the Hartford Courant.

  • #97. Capitol Technology University

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

    Maryland's Capitol Technology University specializes in niche areas like aviation, data science, computational systems, cybersecurity, security intelligence, and engineering, among others. Eighty percent of full-time students receive some form of financial aid, and 82% had job offers (or pursued graduate school) within 90 days of commencement.

  • #96. University of Virginia-Main Campus

    - 40-year net present value: $1,291,000
    - 10-year net present value: $144,000
    - Graduation rate: 94%
    - Median debt: $16,500

    The University of Virginia, founded in 1819, is one of the top nationally ranked schools, known for its academic medical center, research, arts, and athletics programs. According to its 2019 First Destinations Report, 67% of graduates went on to full-time employment, while 15% went on to continuing education. The internet and software industry received the highest percentage of graduates, with 13% of graduates finding careers there.

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  • #95. Boston University

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

    Boston University has more than 300 programs of academic study, making it one of the most comprehensive undergraduate programs in the country. The proof is in the pudding, as many students go on to lucrative careers in finance, technology, consulting, and more. The average base salary of graduates is $60,889.

  • #94. Binghamton University

    - 40-year net present value: $1,298,000
    - 10-year net present value: $143,000
    - Graduation rate: 83%
    - Median debt: $16,750

    New York state's Binghamton University is a public university founded in 1946. It's a fairly large university with an undergraduate enrollment of more than 14,000, according to U.S. News & World Report. Students who graduate from Binghamton go on to earn much more than the national average, with starting salaries averaging nearly $61,000 per year.

  • #93. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    - 40-year net present value: $1,299,000
    - 10-year net present value: $146,000
    - Graduation rate: 85%
    - Median debt: $17,750

    Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is a research institution that also has a strong arts program, offering nearly 5,000 courses across more than 150 fields of study. According to the findings from the 2018-2019 graduating class, 93% secured a first destination of employment, with an average starting salary of $64,000 for those with full-time jobs.

  • #92. Wentworth Institute of Technology

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

    Wentworth Institute of Technology is a private, technical design and engineering institution located in Boston, Massachusetts. Its students earn a median starting salary of $64,000 a year, and 96% of 2019 graduates accepted a job in their field.

  • #91. University of California-Los Angeles

    - 40-year net present value: $1,300,000
    - 10-year net present value: $162,000
    - Graduation rate: 91%
    - Median debt: $14,544

    The University of California-Los Angeles is a world-famous institution whose graduates go on to score jobs at companies like Amazon, Bloomberg, Apple, Deloitte, Getty, Google, and Teach for America, among others. The Wall Street Journal named it third-best college in the west for student outcomes, meaning how well a college prepares students for life after graduation.

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