13 Public Colleges With the Best ROI: Princeton Review

Graduates of these schools can expect great career prospects and ‘don't have to mortgage their futures to pay for their degrees’

As college acceptance letters begin to arrive in students’ mailboxes, high school seniors and their families may want to consider this: The total cost of four years at a private institution averages $181,000, according to the College Board — more than double the $83,000 average that public colleges charge for in-state residents and 20% more than those schools charge out-of-state residents. In addition, many private colleges cost more than the published average, as much as $260,000 for four years.

“Two of the most pressing concerns of college applicants and their parents [are] paying for college and finding a job that pays back on that investment,” according to a press release from the Princeton Review, which recently published the 2016 edition of “Colleges that Pay You Back: 200 Schools that Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck.”

Almost one-third of those 200 schools are public colleges, and their median starting salary for graduates, at $49,650, tops the median starting salary of the graduates of private colleges on the list. Median mid-career salaries, however, lead at the private schools: $95,000 versus $87,400.

The Review analyzed 650 institutions for academics, cost, financial aid and graduation rates, based on surveys of administrators and students, plus starting and mid-career salaries of alumni from Payscale.com to come up with its list of the 200 schools deemed to have the best return on investment. (The highest ROI rating is 99.)

“Students who attend these schools don't have to mortgage their futures to pay for their degrees — and we believe they will graduate with great career prospects,” The Princeton Review noted in a press release.

ThinkAdvisor has focused on the 13 public colleges included in the Princeton Review’s “Top 25 Schools that Pay You Back (Even if You’re Not Eligible for Need-Based Financial Aid),” a subset of the larger list, based on the idea that those colleges are likely the most affordable, especially for in-state residents. Three are located in California and Virginia, two in Florida, and one each in Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin.

Here are the 13 top public colleges for ROI:

Georgia Tech sign.

13. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, Georgia

Undergraduate enrollment: 14,682; 31% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 33%

Student Faculty Ratio: 19:1

37% graduate in 4 years; 75% graduate in 5 years

ROI Rating: 90

Starting Median Salary: $61,700

Mid-Career Median Salary: $111,700

Sign in Austin, Texas.

12. University of Texas at Austin

Austin, Texas

Undergraduate enrollment: 39,619: 5.3% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 39%

Student Faculty Ratio: 18:1

52% graduate in 4 years; 76% in 5 years

ROI Rating:  89

Starting Median Salary: $52,200

Mid-Career Median Salary: $96,100

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.

11. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, Illinois

Undergraduate enrollment: 32,959: 9% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 59%

Student Faculty Ratio: 18:1

69% graduate in 4 years

ROI Rating: 90

Starting Median Salary: $55,000

Mid-Career Median Salary: $97,100

Norwood Hall Missouri S&T campus. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

10. Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, Missouri

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,522; 19% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 86%

Student Faculty Ratio: 18:1

23% graduate in 4 years; 55% graduate in 5 years

ROI Rating: 92

Starting Median Salary: $62,400

Mid-Career Median Salary $98,100

University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

9. University of Wisconsin - Madison

Madison, Wisconsin

Undergraduate enrollment 31,289; 33% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 50%

Student Faculty Ratio: 17:1

56% graduate in 4 years; 82% graduate in 5 years

ROI Rating: 91

Starting Median Salary: $48,500

Mid-Career Median Salary: $88,000

New College of Florida. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) 

8. New College of Florida

Sarasota, Florida

Undergraduate enrollment: 861; 15% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 61%

Student Faculty Ratio: 10:1

63% graduate in 4 years

ROI Rating: 91

Starting Median Salary: $39,800

Mid-Career Median Salary: $85,000

Virginia Tech campus. (Photo: AP)

7. Virginia Tech

Blacksburg, Virginia

Undergraduate enrollment 24,247; 24% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 73%

Student Faculty Ratio: 16:1

83% graduate in 6 years (No data for 4 years)

ROI Rating: 90

Starting Median Salary:  $53,800

Mid-Career Median Salary: $95,600

The Storke Tower and the University of California – Santa Barbara. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

6. University of California – Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara, California

Undergraduate enrollment: 20,607; 5% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 33%

Student Faculty Ratio: 17:1

68% graduate in 4 years

ROI Rating: 92

Starting Median Salary: $47,000

Mid-Career Median Salary: $96,900

University of Florida students carry their canoe to the water for a race. (Photo: AP)

5. University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Undergraduate enrollment: 33,720; 3.21% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 47%

Student Faculty Ratio: 21:1

??%graduate in 4 years N/A

ROI Rating: 91

Starting Median Salary: $48,800

Mid-Career Median Salary: $85,300

The College of William & Mary campus. (Photo: AP)

4. College of William and Mary

Williamsburg, Virginia

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,301; 30% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 34%

Student Faculty Ratio: 12:1

82% graduate in 4 years

ROI Rating: 91

Starting Median Salary: $44,600

Mid-Career Median Salary: $95,500

Students walking on the campus of UCLA. (Photo: AP) 

3. University of California – Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Undergraduate enrollment: 29,633: 11% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 19%

Student Faculty Ratio: 17:1

73% graduate in 4 years

ROI Rating: 93

Starting Median Salary: $50,300

Mid-Career Median Salary: $95,900

 

The University of Virginia campus. 

University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia Undergraduate enrollment:16,736; 28% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 30%

Student Faculty Ratio: 15:1

87% graduate in 4 years

ROI Rating: 94

Starting Median Salary: $54,100

Mid-Career Median Salary: $99,300

Sather Gate on the University of California Berkeley campus. (Photos: AP) 

University of California – Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Undergraduate enrollment: 27,126; 15% Out of State

Acceptance rate: 16%

Student Faculty Ratio: 17:1

72% graduate in 4 years

ROI Rating: 96

Starting Median Salary: $59,500

Mid-Career Median Salary: $114,200

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