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

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RankSchool Name20 Year Net ROI
Total 4 Year Cost
Graduation Rate
Typical Years to Graduate
Average Loan Amount
Rank:21School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$713,000Total 4 Year Cost:$240,000Graduation Rate:89%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$37,400
Rank:22School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$701,000Total 4 Year Cost:$258,000Graduation Rate:94%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$32,100
Rank:23School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$695,000Total 4 Year Cost:$251,000Graduation Rate:89%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$26,400
Rank:24School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$672,000Total 4 Year Cost:$257,000Graduation Rate:96%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$28,700
Rank:25School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$671,000Total 4 Year Cost:$263,000Graduation Rate:94%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$26,100
Rank:26School Name:
Rice University (Private)
20 Year Net ROI:$669,000Total 4 Year Cost:$229,000Graduation Rate:93%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$29,500
Rank:27School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$668,000Total 4 Year Cost:$265,000Graduation Rate:97%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$24,700
Rank:28School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$668,000Total 4 Year Cost:$144,000Graduation Rate:51%Typical Years to Graduate:5Average Loan Amount:$32,000
Rank:29School Name:20 Year Net ROI:$665,000Total 4 Year Cost:$243,000Graduation Rate:92%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$23,600
Rank:30School Name:
Duke University (Private)
20 Year Net ROI:$659,000Total 4 Year Cost:$262,000Graduation Rate:95%Typical Years to Graduate:4Average Loan Amount:$24,700

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.

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 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 almost always provides one of 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 is another perennial high-ranker on our 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. 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.