College ROI Report: Best Value Colleges

With the average college student graduating with almost $30K in student loans, prospective college students, parents and policymakers are all trying to better understand the value of college education in the job market.  Read More

Find Out Exactly What You
Should Be Paid
Find Out Exactly What You
Should Be Paid

1Harvey Mudd College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$985,300
Total 4 Year Cost$237,700
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$21,920
2California Institute of Technology (Caltech)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$901,400
Total 4 Year Cost$221,600
Grad Rate93%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$22,160
3Stevens Institute of Technology(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$841,000
Total 4 Year Cost$232,000
Grad Rate79%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$44,000
4Colorado School of Mines(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$831,000
Total 4 Year Cost$112,000
Grad Rate70%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$30,480
5Babson College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$812,800
Total 4 Year Cost$230,200
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$31,880
6Stanford University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$809,700
Total 4 Year Cost$233,300
Grad Rate96%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$29,880
7Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$798,500
Total 4 Year Cost$224,500
Grad Rate93%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$33,680
8Georgia Institute of Technology(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$796,300
Total 4 Year Cost$86,700
Grad Rate82%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$30,600
9Princeton University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$795,700
Total 4 Year Cost$217,300
Grad Rate97%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$17,040
10Colorado School of Mines(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$771,000
Total 4 Year Cost$172,000
Grad Rate70%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$30,480
11Virginia Military Institute (VMI)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$767,300
Total 4 Year Cost$95,700
Grad Rate76%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$31,800
12Kettering University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$752,900
Total 4 Year Cost$190,100
Grad Rate61%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$45,600
13Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$735,100
Total 4 Year Cost$217,900
Grad Rate73%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$40,800
14Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$726,000
Total 4 Year Cost$87,000
Grad Rate63%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$26,400
15Brown University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$723,900
Total 4 Year Cost$229,100
Grad Rate95%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$24,640

*NOTE: Unranked schools on this list don’t have on-campus living options, so on-campus costs are not available.

This isn't to say that students should only pursue majors with the highest earning potential or make decisions about where to attend school based solely off College ROI Report rankings. However, we currently have 18-year-olds signing on the dotted line for student loans they're not even certain they can pay back. Access to data showing how other alumni following a similar path have fared in the job market is critical to ensuring students are making financial decisions that make sense.

Sticker Price vs. Your Cost to Attend

One big variable in calculating best college values in monetary terms is the cost to attend. Unfortunately, it can be fairly difficult to discern what your true net cost might be. The stated "sticker price" that colleges report to the Department of Education is often not representative of what a majority of students will pay. In a Washington Post article, author and higher ed pundit Jeffrey Selingo wrote "If colleges continue to maintain that so few people actually pay the sticker price, then maybe it's time for them to stop advertising it and develop a new pricing approach that is more realistic and transparent for more of their students."

Colleges will often reduce a student's cost, by supplying financial aid assistance, based on family income and academic success in high school. Schools are required to provide access to net price calculators so that students can estimate their true cost to attend, but not all students are even aware these calculators exist.

"This information gap matters," stated a November 2014 report titled Transparency in College Costs from the Brookings Institution. "Research suggests that providing more information to prospective students regarding what it would actually cost to attend will have a substantive impact on their higher-education decisionmaking."

Student Loan Debt Is Reaching Crisis Levels

In the past, college was a ticket to a brighter future. Now, it's a ticket to immense debt and an uncertain financial future for far too many students. Student loan debt in the U.S. has now topped $1 trillion. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 44 percent of recent college graduates are underemployed -- working in jobs that don't require their degree -- as of 2012.

In a recent report to Congress, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen talked about the struggles of the Millennial generation saying "They're certainly waiting longer to buy houses, to get married. They have a lot of student debt. They seem quite worried about housing as an investment. They've had a tough time in the job market."

Those delays could have a serious impact on the U.S. economy as a whole and specifically the housing market. Derek Thompson of The Atlantic recently wrote "More years of school + more student debt + lower starting salaries + a nervous housing market + stricter rules for new home-buyers = no new home-buyers."

College Return on Investment

No matter how you look at it, college is an investment -- both of time and money. The benefit to this particular investment is that there are returns far beyond the obvious monetary ones. However, the financial aspects of evaluating college return on investment cannot be ignored. And, some schools are simply doing a better job of setting their alumni up for success in the job market. Whether you're planning to study computer science or psychology, earning potential in your chosen field, along with the cost of attendance for the schools you're considering, should be part of the equation when whittling down your list of best return on investment colleges.

To that end, we've provided the ability to view the best value colleges for various majors and career paths as well as evaluate ROI at a school overall. You can see which colleges are providing the best monetary return for their alumni via low cost of attendance, high earning potential or a combination of the two.