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Mapping College ROI: Best Value Colleges by State

Get ready to take a (virtual) road trip and see where you can find the best value colleges by state, compare ROI-related trends, or deep dive to see how schools in individual states compare.

PayScale's College ROI Report was created to help students and their families help make smarter decisions about which college they should attend. By thinking of the cost of college as an investment, the same way you think about stocks or real estate, you can identify which colleges literally pay their alumni back and produce students who not only are able to pay back the cost of tuition, but enjoy successful careers. Of course the value of education, especially the four years you typically spend earning your bachelor's degree, is more than just money, but with the skyrocketing cost of higher education, it's absolutely necessary to consider cost and your career goals when picking a college.

This interactive map helps you see how College ROI by state compares. If you have your heart set on attending a school in a specific state, you can even zoom in and find out facts about individual colleges, including 20-year net ROI, annualized ROI, percent of students who stay in state after graduating, percent STEM degrees awarded, student loan amounts and financial aid amounts.

Surprisingly, Alaska has the highest average 20-year net ROI of any state in the country. Of course, with only two colleges from Alaska in our 2015 College ROI Report, there isn't a huge selection of schools to choose from. Utah is home to the second-highest 20-year net college ROI. The four colleges in Utah included in this year's ROI Report (Brigham Young University, The University of Utah, Utah State University and Weber State University) have an average 20-year net ROI of $408,100. (It should be noted that only in-state tuitions were used to calculate ROIs for public universities.)

Mountain states are home to some of the best value colleges by state in the country – Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico all have annualized ROIs over nine percent, and Arizona has an ROI of 8.8 percent, putting it pretty close behind.

When it comes to paying for college, we see some interesting trends state by state. Washington DC, the nation's capital, is home to the highest average college tuitions. It costs an average of $210,800 to attend college for four years in Washington DC. Rhode Island has the second highest costs. The lowest average tuitions are found in West Virginia, where it only costs an average of $68,900 to attend school.

However, financial aid makes a huge impact on the cost of attending college. Washington DC, unfortunately has the lowest percentage of students receiving grant money though – only 60.5 percent of DC students receive grants. That means it really is expensive to attend college in Washington DC for students if they don't qualify for government aid. In New Mexico, however, 95.5 percent of students receive grant money.

Pennsylvania ranks highest for average yearly student loan debt – Pennsylvania students accrue an average of $8,600 (government loans only) per year of attending college. Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut also report average yearly loan amounts over $8,000 per year.

Use this interactive map to explore your home state or see how college costs and returns on investment compare by state.
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