PayScale 2018 College Return on Investment Report: STEM-Focused Colleges and Military Academies Top the List
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PayScale 2018 College Return on Investment Report: STEM-Focused Colleges and Military Academies Top the List

Of the 20 highest-ranked schools, 15 are known specifically for STEM education programs.

Seattle, WA – May 1, 2018 – Today PayScale, Inc., the leader in precise, on-demand cloud compensation solutions for businesses and individuals, announced the release of its annual College Return on Investment Report.  The report is designed to help prospective students and families make informed decisions related to college debt and relative earning potential. The report evaluates the cost of attending a college against the long-term earning potential of a student upon graduation.

“Selecting a college can be an overwhelming decision for students, as well as a significant financial investment for many families,” observed PayScale Vice President Lydia Frank. “We want to provide additional insights for students and parents so they can be armed with a solid understanding of not just the cost but also the value of a college education in the job market.”

The latest PayScale College ROI Report includes 1,461 higher education institutions (an increase of 39 schools from last year’s report). Of these schools, 922 are private, 534 are public and five are service academies.

Rankings shown are based on 20-Year Net ROI for on-campus costs, factoring costs both with and without financial aid. If a school does not report On Campus costs to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), then it is not included in the rankings, with the exception of Service Academies, most of which typically charge no tuition. Estimates are based on income and education data from approximately 1.4 million respondents to PayScale’s salary survey collected between January 2007 and February 2018.

PayScale College Return on Investment Highlights:

Schools that promote STEM rank highly

  • Prestigious schools with renowned STEM programs also rank near the top, including MIT, Harvey Mudd, Caltech, Georgia Tech, Stevens Institute of Technology and Stanford.
  • The top overall school-job combination is Business and Financial Operations at MIT.
  • Seventy-three of the top-100 school-job combinations include Computer and Mathematical occupations or Architecture and Engineering occupations.

Computer Science and Math, Economics and Engineering majors dominate the highest ROI school-major combinations

  • Ninety-five of the top-100 school-major combinations include either a Computer Science & Math, Economics or Engineering major.
  • The same small group of schools (Stanford, Yale, service academies, etc.) top the rankings for most major groups.

Service academies occupy the top ranks

  • For the second year in a row, the Merchant Marine Academy occupies the top spot in the rankings. The Military, Naval and Air Force Academies are all in the top 10, while the Coast Guard Academy ranked 27th.
  • Service academies perform well in PayScale’s rankings both because they ensure their alumni have lucrative careers after graduation and because their cost is so low. 

When factoring in financial aid, private schools rank higher

  • The no-aid rankings do not tell the whole story. Before taking financial aid into account, 44 of the top 100 are public schools. After accounting for aid, that number falls to 35.
  • The median rank of the eight Ivy League schools improves from 36.5 to 20.5 after accounting for aid.

For more information, please refer to the full PayScale 2018 College ROI Report at:  Find information about the methodology of the College ROI report is at:

About PayScale:

As the industry leader in compensation data and technology, PayScale helps organizations #getpayright. PayScale is the only technology solution for managing compensation that provides multiple streams of fresh, transparently curated, and validated salary data. Combined with modeling engines that learn continuously and generate recommendations and insight, PayScale empowers HR to price jobs and adjust compensation to reflect near real-time changes in the market — all on one trusted data platform. With PayScale’s Adaptive Compensation Advantage, teams operate with efficiency, focused on outcomes rather than manual data management. To learn how companies like The Washington Post, Perry Ellis International, United Healthcare and The New York Times rely on PayScale to attract and retain top talent, engage employees and plan their future workforce, visit

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