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
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."
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."
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. Show Less