Best Value Public Colleges

Though they may not always enjoy the same prestigious reputation of well-known private schools, public colleges and universities often provide an incredible education at the fraction of the price.  Read More

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1SUNY - Maritime College(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$945,000
Total 4 Year Cost$89,000
Grad Rate47%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$32,000
2SUNY - Maritime College(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$908,000
Total 4 Year Cost$126,000
Grad Rate47%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$32,000
3Colorado School of Mines(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$846,000
Total 4 Year Cost$118,000
Grad Rate76%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$33,400
4Georgia Institute of Technology(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$833,000
Total 4 Year Cost$91,500
Grad Rate82%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$31,700
5University of California - Berkeley(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$806,000
Total 4 Year Cost$133,000
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$23,300
6Massachusetts Maritime Academy(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$787,000
Total 4 Year Cost$86,900
Grad Rate70%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$32,000
7Colorado School of Mines(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$783,000
Total 4 Year Cost$181,000
Grad Rate76%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$33,400
8 (tie)Georgia Institute of Technology(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$756,000
Total 4 Year Cost$168,000
Grad Rate82%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$31,700
8 (tie)Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$756,000
Total 4 Year Cost$87,500
Grad Rate63%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$27,500
10Massachusetts Maritime Academy(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$728,000
Total 4 Year Cost$146,000
Grad Rate70%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$32,000
11South Dakota School of Mines & Technology(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$718,000
Total 4 Year Cost$85,700
Grad Rate54%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$29,200
12University of California - Berkeley(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$715,000
Total 4 Year Cost$225,000
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$23,300
13 (tie)New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)(In-State)
20 Year Net ROI$708,000
Total 4 Year Cost$126,000
Grad Rate59%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$31,900
13 (tie)South Dakota School of Mines & Technology(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$708,000
Total 4 Year Cost$95,700
Grad Rate54%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$29,200
15Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T)(Out-of-State)
20 Year Net ROI$699,000
Total 4 Year Cost$145,000
Grad Rate63%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$27,500

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

They certainly offer some of the best value for many students, especially if you attend a school in your home state and enjoy lower tuition costs than out-of-state students.

If you don't want to go into debt to pay for a quality education, a public school may be the right choice for you. There are public schools located in every state in the country, and they tend to have high enrollments, which means that they typically offer more activities, events and athletic programs. The specific return on investment for each public college varies; here are some of those that offer the best return on investment.

Located on the Bronx's Throgs Neck peninsula, directly across the East River from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, SUNY - Maritime College comes in number one overall for public schools on PayScale's 2016 College ROI Report. Founded in 1874, most of the degree programs at SUNY - Maritime may be completed while concurrently preparing for the United States Merchant Marine officer's license as a third mate or third assistant engineer. The school costs $89,000 for in-state students and $126,000 for out-of-state students for a four-year degree, but provides a median return of investment of $945,000 and $908,000, respectively, over 20 years, assuming no financial aid is being collected.

The fact that the Colorado School of Mines is ranked seventh on the national College ROI Report is reason enough for it to appear near the top of our list of best value public schools. CSM alumni report a median return of investment of $846,000 without financial aid. With it, that figure soars to $881,000. Located in Golden, Colorado, CSM has a student population of around 5,600 and is split into three colleges: The College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering, the College of Applied Science and Engineering and the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences. Ranked 29th on U.S. News and World Report's list of the Top Public Schools, CSM specializes in conferring degrees in engineering and the applied sciences and is a worthwhile option for students who'd like to attend a public school offering an exceptional return on their investment.

With its location in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a fun and exciting place to attend school. Ranked eighth on the national 20 Year Net ROI list, the public university is located on a 400-acre campus and boasts a student population of around 23,100 students. Those who have graduated from one of GT's six colleges report a median return of investment of $833,000 in the 20 years following graduation, and that figure increases to $871,000 with financial aid. Of the many prominent alumni from the school, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is undoubtedly the most noteworthy. Go, Yellow Jackets!

Coming in the number four for public schools on PayScale's College ROI Report is -- sense a theme? -- none other than University of California, Berkeley. The Golden Bears are the crown jewel for California's excellent public school system, with an estimated 20-Year Net ROI of $873,000 for students collecting financial aid, a 14.3 percent net annualized return on investment.