30 Colleges for Best ROI: 2016

When choosing a college, recouping the high cost in the form of higher salaries is one factor worth considering

Choosing a college comes down to a number of factors, and students and parents would do well to ask key questions when visiting campuses.

PayScale.com lists five key things that should be asked to help keep costs down before choosing a school:

  • Will I graduate in four years? This is important because just 41% of college graduate do so in the traditional timeframe.
  • Will I lose valuable time if I change my major? Again, earning that degree in four years keeps costs more in control.
  • Will I improve my skills in writing, critical thinking and analysis? Will I have the opportunity to work productively and successfully in teams?
  • Will I have access to a loyal and supportive alumni network?
  • What financial aid and scholarships are available?

Taking the answers to those questions into account – along with academics, available majors and other traditional factors – is a good way to narrow down the choice of a college.

Understanding how well a degree from a particular college will pay you back over time is a good thing to know, too. PayScale has published its annual list of how colleges fare in terms of return on investment.

“For most people, college is one of the largest expenses they'll ever take on, so it makes sense to think about it like any other financial investment," said Aubrey Bach, PayScale's head of alumni analytics, in a press release. "We created the College ROI Report to help students and their families understand the long-term implications of their decisions about school and major.”

(Many of these colleges are private schools with hefty price tags; if you can't cough up that much for tuition, check out 13 Public Colleges With the Best ROI: Princeton Review.)

The methodology PayScale used to compare 962 schools in the U.S. includes only data on graduates who earned bachelor’s degrees. It calculates 20-year ROI by taking the difference between the 20-year median pay for a 2015 graduate and the 24-year median pay for a 2015 high school graduate, then subtracting the 4-year cost of attending the college.

For most schools, the confidence PayScale has in its calculations is 90%, with an error rate of plus or minus 5% on the 20-year ROI projections.

Here, then, are the 30 Colleges for Best ROI:

Rice University campus in Houston.

29 (tie). RICE UNIVERSITY

Location: Houston

20-Year Net ROI: $701,000

4-Year Cost: $213,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $30,400

29 (tie). RENSSELAER POLYTECHINC INSTITUTE

Location: Troy, New York

20-Year Net ROI: $701,000

4-Year Cost: $243,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $42,800

Columbia University Campus. (Photo: AP)

28. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Location: New York City

20-Year Net ROI: $706,000

4-Year Cost: $251,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $31,800

26 (tie). SOUTH DAKOTA SCHOOL OF MINES AND TECHNOLOGY (out of state)

Location: Rapid City

20-Year Net ROI: $708,000

4-Year Cost: $95,700

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $29,200

NJIT campus. (Photo: AP)

26 (tie). NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Location: Newark

20-Year Net ROI: $708,000

4-Year Cost: $126,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $31,900

25. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (out of state)

Location: Berkeley

20-Year Net ROI: $715,000

4-Year Cost: $225,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $23,300

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology mascot.

24. SOUTH DAKOTA SCHOOL OF MINES AND TECHNOLOGY (in state)

Location: Rapid City, South Dakota

20-Year Net ROI: $718,000

4-Year Cost: $85,700

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $29,200

23. MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY (out of state)

Location: Buzzards Bay

20-Year Net ROI: $728,000

4-Year Cost: $146,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $32,000

Harvard Law School graduates. (Photo: AP)

22. HARVARD UNIVERSITY

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

20-Year Net ROI: $739,000

4-Year Cost: $235,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $20,300

20 (tie). MISSOURI UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Location: Rolla

20-Year Net ROI: $756,000

4-Year Cost: $87,500

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $27,500

Students parade through the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. (Photos: AP)

20 (tie). GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (out of  state)

Location: Atlanta

20-Year Net ROI: $756,000

4-Year Cost: $168,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $31,70

19. UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

Location: Philadelphia

20-Year Net ROI: $760,000

4-Year Cost: $243,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $25,400

 Worcester Polytechnic Institute campus. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

18. ROSE-HULMAN INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Location: Terre Haute, Indiana

20-Year Net ROI: $769,000

4-Year Cost: $225,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $45,500

17. WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE

Location: Worcester, Massachusetts

20-Year Net ROI: $776,000

4-Year Cost: $228,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $43,000

Colorado School of Mines sign. (Photo courtesy: Colorado School of Mines)

16. STEVENS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Location: Hoboken, New Jersey

20-Year Net ROI: $781,000

4-Year Cost: $239,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $45,800

15. COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES (out of state)

Location: Golden

20-Year Net ROI: $783,000

4-Year Cost: $181,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $33,400

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

14. KETTERING UNIVERSITY

Location: Flint, Michigan

20-Year Net ROI: $785,000

4-Year Cost: $199,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $41,700

13. MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY (in state)

Location: Buzzards Bay

20-Year Net ROI: $787,000

4-Year Cost: $86,900

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $32,000

Babson college. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

12. BABSON COLLEGE

Location: Babson Park, Massachusetts

20-Year Net ROI: $794,000

4-Year Cost: $238,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $30,000

11. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (in state)

Location: Berkeley

20-Year Net ROI: $806,000

4-Year Cost: $131,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $23,300

Princeton University Campus (Photo: AP)

10. CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY

Location: Pittsburgh

20-Year Net ROI: $811,00

4-Year Cost: $243,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $31,500

9. PRINCETON UNIVERSITY

Location: Princeton, New Jersey

20-Year Net ROI: $820,000

4-Year Cost: $224,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $14,100

Georgia Tech sign.

8. GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY (in state)

Location: Atlanta

20-Year Net ROI: $833,000

4-Year Cost: $91,500

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $31,700

7. COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES (in state)

Location: Golden

20-Year Net ROI: $846,000

4-Year Cost: $118,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $33,400

Stanford University campus. (Photo: AP)

6. STANFORD UNIVERSITY

Location: Palo Alto

20-Year Net ROI: $854,000

4-Year Cost: $240,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $29,100

5. SUNY-MARITIME COLLEGE (out of state)

Location: New York City

20-Year Net ROI: $908,000

4-Year Cost: $126,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $32,000

Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

3 (tie). SUNY-MARITIME COLLEGE (in state)

Location: New York City

20-Year Net ROI: $945,000

4-Year Cost: $89,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 5

Average Loan Amount: $32,000

3 (tie). HARVEY MUDD COLLEGE

Location: Claremont, California

20-Year Net ROI: $945,000

4-Year Cost: $249,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $24,400

The Millikan Library on the campus of Caltech. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

2. MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Location: Cambridge

A20-Year Net ROI: $972,000

4-Year Cost: $232,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $32,200

1. CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

Location: Pasadena

20-Year Net ROI: $973,000

4-Year Cost: $230,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $19,000

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