Best Value Private Colleges

A degree earned at a private college or university usually carries a certain degree of prestige, but that prestige often comes at a price; private schools can have shockingly high tuitions.  Read More

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1California Institute of Technology (Caltech)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$973,000
Total 4 Year Cost$230,000
Grad Rate92%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$19,000
2Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$972,000
Total 4 Year Cost$232,000
Grad Rate91%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$32,200
3Harvey Mudd College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$945,000
Total 4 Year Cost$249,000
Grad Rate90%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$24,400
4Stanford University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$854,000
Total 4 Year Cost$240,000
Grad Rate95%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$29,100
5Princeton University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$820,000
Total 4 Year Cost$224,000
Grad Rate97%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$14,100
6Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$811,000
Total 4 Year Cost$243,000
Grad Rate88%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$31,500
7Babson College(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$794,000
Total 4 Year Cost$238,000
Grad Rate90%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$30,000
8Kettering University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$785,000
Total 4 Year Cost$199,000
Grad Rate57%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$41,700
9Stevens Institute of Technology(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$781,000
Total 4 Year Cost$239,000
Grad Rate82%
Time to Graduate5 Years
Loan Amt$45,800
10Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$776,000
Total 4 Year Cost$228,000
Grad Rate85%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$43,000
11Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$769,000
Total 4 Year Cost$225,000
Grad Rate72%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$45,500
12University of Pennsylvania(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$760,000
Total 4 Year Cost$243,000
Grad Rate96%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$25,400
13Harvard University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$739,000
Total 4 Year Cost$235,000
Grad Rate98%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$20,300
14Columbia University(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$706,000
Total 4 Year Cost$251,000
Grad Rate95%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$31,800
15 (tie)Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)(Private)
20 Year Net ROI$701,000
Total 4 Year Cost$243,000
Grad Rate82%
Time to Graduate4 Years
Loan Amt$42,800

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

That said, for certain students, the right private school can represent the best value in terms of college return on investment.

Students seek out private universities and colleges for a number of reasons. Such schools tend to have very close-knit communities, and class sizes tend to be far smaller than those at public institutes of higher learning. If you're considering enrolling at a privately funded university, consider using PayScale's data to identify which school will give you the best return on your investment.

Appearing first on our list of best value private universities, the California Institute of Technology -- or "Caltech," as it's more commonly known -- is a privately funded university that was founded in 1891. Located in Pasadena, California, Caltech consists of six academic divisions and offers 24 majors, or "options," and six minors. Caltech alums report a median return of investment of $973,000 in the two decades after they graduate. With financial aid, that number soars to $1,100,000. Caltech has produced many accomplished alumni through the years, but Linus Pauling -- recipient of two Nobel Prize awards -- is probably the most notable. Furthermore, six alumni have received the Turing Award, which is considered the Nobel Prize of computer science.

One-third of all manned space flights have included graduates of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, so it's easy to see why it's among the best schools a person can select. Located in Cambridge, the private university is ranked second on the national 20 Year Net ROI list for private schools. Indeed, its 20 Year Net ROI is $972,000 -- which skyrockets to $1,120,000 with financial aid -- easily making it among the best private school returns on investment you can find. Programs offered by its five schools and colleges span many fields, but the physical sciences and engineering are undoubtedly among the most popular. Since its founding in 1861, MIT has produced or been associated with more than 80 Nobel Laureates, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 52 National Medal of Science recipients and two Fields Medalists, so you would be hard-pressed to find a more prestigious engineering school offering this kind of value.

From its 38-acre campus in Claremont, California, Harvey Mudd College holds the distinction of being the number-three private school on our 20 Year Net ROI college list. Founded in 1955, the highly regarded college hosts just 800 students per year. However, those who graduate go on to enjoy great earning potential, as evidenced by the school's 20 Year Net ROI of $945,000. With financial aid, that figure zooms to $1,106,000. The school is a standout in many ways, but the fact that significant numbers of graduates go on to earn their PhDs is particularly noteworthy. Located about 35 miles east of Los Angeles, Harvey Mudd College offers four-year degrees in engineering, computer science, chemistry, mathematics and physics and counts many astronauts among its alumni.