Top 50 - Colleges that Provide the Best ROI


At the end of the day, you go to college to get an education to maximize your earning potential. But dropping $100k on a education can greatly hamper your return on investment–even if you end up making $60k after you graduate. Below is our list of the 50 top colleges that provide the best return on investment.


Rank School Name Tuition* Starting Salary* Mid-career Salary* 15-year Return*
United States Naval Academy
Annapolis, MD
$0 $77,000 $131,000 $1,560,750
United States Military Academy (West Point)
West Point, NY
$0 $74,000 $120,000 $1,455,800
SUNY Maritime College
Throggs Neck, NY
$5,870 $54,400 $116,000 $1,315,500
United States Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs, CO
$0 $64,900 $109,100 $1,305,000
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, CO
$14,400 $66,700 $106,000 $1,295,000
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA
$8,260 $60,700 $108,000 $1,265,000
University of California–Berkeley
Berkeley, CA
$12,870 $54,700 $111,000 $1,243,000
Missouri University of Science and Technology
Rola, MO
$7,950 $70,000 $96,100 $1,185,000
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Buzzards Bay, MA
$1,465 $55,000 $102,000 $1,175,000
South Dakota School of Mines & Technology
Rapid City, SD
$8,240 $62,400 $91,800 $1,157,000
Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI
$13,500 $59,200 $94,700 $1,155,000
California Polytechnic State University–San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo, CA
$8,500 $54,000 $99,300 $1,149,000
New Jersey Institute of Technology
Newark, NJ
$12,800 $53,900 $98,000 $1,140,000
University of California–San Diego
La Jolla, CA
$12,200 $49,300 $101,000 $1,128,000
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
Socorro, NM
$5,700 $51,000 $99,500 $1,125,000
Montana Tech
Butte, MT
$6,500 $63,300 $84,000 $1,102,000
University of Virginia
Charlottesville,VA
$10,000 $51,000 $96,000 $1,100,000
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
$9,000 $52,000 $94,500 $1,096,000
University of California–Irvine
Irvine, CA
$11,300 $49,000 $98,000 $1,096,000
University of California–Davis
Davis, CA
$13,900 $50,000 $97,000 $1,095,000
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg, VA
$9,600 $51,800 $94,500 $1,094,000
University of California–Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
$12,900 $49,600 $95,500 $1,087,000
Oregon Institute of Technology
Klamath Falls, OR
$8,900 $57,000 $86,600 $1,080,000
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN
$10,000 $54,500 $89,100 $1,075,000
Stony Brook University SUNY
Stony Brook, NY
$5,900 $48,600 $94,500 $1,072,000
University of California–Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA
$12,200 $46,300 $96,200 $1,069,000
University of Texas–Austin
Austin, TX
$9,800 $50,500 $92,000 $1,066,000
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA
$7,300 $50,500 $90,400 $1,057,000
University of Maryland–College Park
College Park, MD
$9,200 $51,000 $90,000 $1,053,000
Rutgers University
New Brunswick, NJ
$11,000 $49,700 $90,400 $1,051,000
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, MI
$13,000 $54,000 $85,500 $1,045,500
University of Washington–Seattle
Seattle, WA
$12,400 $49,300 $89,500 $1,041,000
Clemson University
Clemson, SC
$13,400 $49,000 $89,700 $1,040,000
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA
$9,900 $49,900 $89,000 $1,040,000
Southern Polytechnic State University
Marietta, GA
$5,400 $49,500 $89,000 $1,037,000
California State Polytechnic University–Pomona
Pomona, CA
$5,500 $48,800 $89,500 $1,035,000
The College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA
$10,500 $44,500 $93,300 $1,033,500
West Virginia University Institute of Technology
Montgomery, WV
$5,800 $52,500 $85,000 $1,030,000
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN
$12,000 $49,000 $87,500 $1,019,000
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC
$8,200 $48,500 $87,000 $1,015,000
University of Arizona
Tuscson, AZ
$10,400 $48,500 $87,000 $1,015,000
University of Delaware
Newark, DE
$12,100 $50,500 $85,000 $1,015,000
University of Illinois of Chicago
Chicago, IL
$10,500 $48,500 $87,000 $1,013,000
University of Alabama–Huntsville
Huntsville, AL
$9,200 $49,600 $85,100 $1,010,000
University of Houston
Houston, TX
$9,400 $49,500 $85,500 $1,010,300
Miami University
Oxford, OH
$13,300 $47,500 $87,300 $1,009,000
Binghamton University SUNY
Binghamton, NY
$6,200 $47,200 $87,000 $1,006,000
CUNY Baruch College
New York City, NY
$5,700 $48,500 $85,500 $1,004,000
Auburn University
Aurburn, AL
$9,900 $45,500 $88,000 $1,001,000
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA
$9,200 $48,000 $85,500 $1,000,000
*All figures represent averages and calculated estimates, and are rounded to nearest hundred or thousand.
There are a lot of reasons people attend college, but at the end of the day if your college experience doesn't lead to a bigger pay check, better career opportunities, and long-term stability, then it really isn't going to be worth it. The same holds true for earning a degree from a "top ranked" institution. If paying expensive tuition and fees doesn't equate to a higher quality career, then what's the point? Why not earn a comparable degree from a quality school that's more affordable. Makes sense to us, and it should to you too–because that's the real value in getting a higher education.

The college and university rankings above are based on two key numbers: (1) cost of tuition and (2) projected income that will come from earning a bachelor's degree from the school. In short, the colleges and universities on our list are those institutions that promise a relatively high future income after graduation and low cost of tuition. The one thing our rankings don't account for that you'll want to take into consideration are other fees and expenses associated with earning your degree from a specific school. Ancillary fees and expense will vary based on a number of factors including residency status, location, academic focus and living arrangement.

So why earn your degree at a mid-tier school instead of shooting for the stars and attending a school like Stanford, Harvard or Yale? There are a lot of reason. Here are just a few. Getting in to a top ranked school is difficult and competition for jobs upon graduation is intense. Additionally, you may not be able to afford to attend an "Ivy League" institution. Is it really worth saddling yourself with $100k+ in debt without the certainty of a job or even a strong job market after you graduate? Earning an accredited degree, an affordable degree, from reputable mid-tier college or university often makes a lot more sense–and offers a lot higher return on investment.



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