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

See also: 30 colleges for the worst ROI: 2016

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 factor — is a good way to narrow down the choice of a college.

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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.”

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…

See also:

Top 13 colleges whose grads earn the most: 2015

15 cheapest colleges with best job value

The 20 richest colleges of 2014

 

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 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

Rice University, seen here, was established in 1912. (Photo: ThinkAdvisor) 

 

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

Columbia University, seen here, was originally called King’s College and then Columbia College. (Photo: ThinkAdvisor)

 

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

The NJIT campus is within walking distance of downtown Newark, New Jersey. (Photo: ThinkAdvisor)

 

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 AND TECHNOLOGY

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

Founded in 1885, The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is often referred to as “SDSM&T,” “Tech” or “Mines.” (Photo: sdsmt.edu)

 

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. 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

Law students at Harvard wave their gavels as they’re being conferred with their degrees. (Photo: AP Images)

 

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 Dr. George Simpson, Chancellor of Georgia Institute of Technology, places the hood of the honorary doctorate of engineering over President Jimmy Carter's head, Feb. 20, 1979 in Atlanta. Tech's President Joseph Pettit is on the right. (AP Photo)

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

Dr. George Simpson, Chancellor of Georgia Institute of Technology, places the hood of the honorary doctorate of engineering over President Jimmy Carter’s head on Feb. 20, 1979. Tech’s President Joseph Pettit is on the right. (AP Photo)

 

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

Stacey Otts, a senior at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., studies in one of the school's chemistry labs Friday, Jan. 26, 2007. Otts thinks Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposal of offering "scholarships" to students to stay in the state after they graduate is a good idea even though she has accepted a job in Texas after she graduates in May. "I could have stayed in Indiana for another three years, no problem," said Otts. (AP Photo/Joseph C. Garza)

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

In this file photo from 2007, Stacey Otts, a senior at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, studies in one of the school’s chemistry labs. (AP Photo/Joseph C. Garza)

 

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

Javier Fernandez, left, and Deanna Wetmore hold a rope as they help a crew flying a hot air balloon draped with the colors of the U.S. flag at Stevens Institute of Technology, Tuesday, July 3, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. The balloon, which is part of the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning held at the end of of July at Solberg Airport in Readington, N.J., flew in honor of the Fourth of July holiday. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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

Javier Fernandez, left, and Deanna Wetmore hold a rope as they help a crew flying a hot air balloon draped with the colors of the U.S. flag at Stevens Institute of Technology in honor of the Fourth of July holiday in 2012. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

 

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

Kettering University student Mike Urbanczyk, 22, practices using a remote control pad to operate a robotic arm attached with an automobile painting air brush at ABB in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Nov. 7, 1997. ABB is one of about 600 companies that provide on-the-job training for Kettering's students. A student can earn between $40,000 and $65,000 during college, helping to offset tuition of about $13,500 a year. (AP Photo/Tom Pidgeon)

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

In this photo from 1997, Kettering University student Mike Urbanczyk, 22, practices using a remote control pad to operate a robotic arm attached with an automobile painting air brush.(AP Photo/Tom Pidgeon)

 

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

Bertarelli Foundation Co-Chair Dona Bertarelli and Babson President Kerry Healey at signing establishing Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor of Family Entrepreneurship at Babson College (PRNewsFoto/Babson College)

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

Bertarelli Foundation Co-Chair Dona Bertarelli and Babson President Kerry Healey at signing establishing Bertarelli Foundation Distinguished Professor of Family Entrepreneurship at Babson College (PRNewsFoto/Babson College)

 

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

Leila Wehbe, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, talks about an experiment that used brain scans made in this brain-scanning MRI machine on campus, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. Volunteers where scanned as each word of a chapter of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was flashed for half a second onto a screen inside the machine. Images showing combinations of data and graphics were collected. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

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

Leila Wehbe, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, talks about an experiment that used brain scans made in this brain-scanning MRI machine on campus. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

 

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

Carnegie Hall at GIT.

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

The Carnegie Building, constructed in 1907, is located in the Historic District of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Central Campus. It was originally the campus library, and it now houses the President’s office. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

 

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 was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford, former Governor of and U.S. Senator from California and railroad tycoon, and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15. (Photo: iStock)

6. STANFORD UNIVERSITY

Location: Palo Alto, California

20-Year Net ROI: $854,000

4-Year Cost: $240,000

Typical Years to Graduate: 4

Average Loan Amount: $29,100

Stanford was founded in 1885 by Leland Stanford, former Governor of and U.S. Senator from California and railroad tycoon, and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15. (Photo: iStock)

 

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

Front gate of SUNY Maritime College (Photo: Wikipedia 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

United States astronaut Scott Kelly is among the notable alums from SUNY Maritime College. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

 

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

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

 MIT alumni boast considerable success in scientific research, public service, education and business. (Photo: iStock)

 

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