20 Colleges Worth the Investment

  • Education Is An Investment

    Choosing the right college has always been an important decision in many young people’s lives, with the number of options constantly growing and the price of education following suit. The decision becomes even more pronounced in a competitive job market like ours, even spurring some colleges to arbitrarily inflate grades just to give their students a leg up. Those who attended an American college might say the name of the institution means less than what a student does while he or she is there. However, reputation is a factor leading to professional success after graduation. PayScale.com, a site that collects and compares salary information across industries, recently compared colleges by their return-on-investment (ROI), or the median salary they can expect to earn 30 years after graduation, compared with the amount spent on tuition and living costs for the four years of education. Photo Credit: L.E. MacDonald
    Show me the money
  • Show me the money

    PayScale took a snapshot of how much money college graduates make compared to those with only a high school education. To standardize the comparisons, Payscale only counted schools with on-campus housing (excluding cheap or free online universities that might distort the ranking), and graduates who had not gone on to earn advanced degrees. This isolated the effects having of a bachelor’s degree only. The final list contains 852 schools, both public and private, though only UC Berkeley made it into the top 20 from the public sector, and that only for in-state students, who pay a lower tuition than out-of-staters. The lesson? Graduates of private colleges can expect to make more money than graduates of state schools, and schools with strong engineering programs tend to produce high-earning graduates. Here we look at the top 20 schools, showing for each the average cost of getting a degree in 2009 (including tuition, room, and board for four years), the 30-year ROI (median salary compared with those without a bachelors degree in the same industry), and the annualized ROI, representing the percent of the expected ROI received each year after graduation. Photo Credit: Velkr()
    20th Best school by ROI: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • 20th Best school by ROI: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

    Avg. cost in 2009: $227,300 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,158,000 Annual ROI: 10.8% A private university in upstate New York, Rensselaer [LINK: http://www.rpi.edu/about/index.html] is a technical school that has produced inventors in a number of hi-tech fields. Its engineering graduates invented the Ferris Wheel (George W. G. Ferris) and designed both the Brooklyn (Washington Roebling) and Williamsburg (Leffert L. Buck) bridges in Manhattan, and graduates in the field of computer science and electronics invented the first commercial television (Allen Dumont), e-mail (Raymond Tomlinson), and preeminent video graphics company NVIDIA. As a research school with half of its budget going to research programs, Rensselaer’s 82 percent male student body will be free of distractions in its continued drive to produce advancements in science and technology that will change the world. Photo Credit: Tony
    19th Best school by ROI: Columbia University
  • 19th Best school by ROI: Columbia University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $192,200 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,161,000 Annual ROI: 11.3% From its iconic location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Columbia University has long been a leader in many fields of academia since its founding in 1754. It administers the Pulitzer Prize, the most important awards in the worlds of literature and journalism, and boasts 79 Nobel Prize winners among its faculty and alumni. A member of the Ivy League, Columbia has produced some high-profile graduates. Countless influential writers and actors have attended, as well as three U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, who was there in the early 80s. Photo Credit: Harald
    18th Best school by ROI: Colgate University
  • 18th Best school by ROI: Colgate University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $187,700 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,167,000 Annual ROI: 11.4% With only 2,750 undergraduates, Colgate University is one of the smallest on the list. Located in picturesque Hamilton, NY., this small liberal arts college earned its reputation by offering top-notch academics and producing a number of famous arts graduates. In addition to Charles Addams, the creator of "The Addams Family," Colgate has produced pop culture all-stars such as the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, or the brains behind the movie, Super Troopers, "60 Minutes" political commentator Andy Rooney, and the inventors of the popular board game, Trivial Pursuit, Ed Werner and John Haney. Photo Credit: Jayu
    17th Best school by ROI: Carnegie Mellon University
  • 17th Best school by ROI: Carnegie Mellon University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $190,600 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,220,000 Annual ROI: 11.5% Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University has long made computer science and engineering the focus of its programs and research. Founders Andrew Carnegie, an entrepreneur who developed Pittsburgh’s steel industry, and Andrew Mellon, a banking magnate, left a legacy of entrepreneurship that emphasized practical (read: marketable) research. Its graduates have more than risen to the challenges both of technical innovation and financial success, with notable alumni such as Vinod Khosla, venture capitalist and co-founder of the IT company Sun Microsystems, and James Gosling, the inventor of the very successful Java programming language, having attended. Photo Credit: Chloe Fan
    16th Best school by ROI: University of California, Berkeley
  • 16th Best school by ROI: University of California, Berkeley

    Avg. cost in 2009: $118,900 (in-state) 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,223,000 Annual ROI: 13.1% The only public institution on this list, the University of California system’s oldest campus, Berkeley, has long been a leader in scientific research. With two elements named after it on the Periodic Table (Berkelium, Californium) and Nobel Laureates all over campus, Berkeley even offers a class of parking permits for those who received the honor. In addition to alumni leaders in science, however, the university’s 300-plus academic programs have produced other noteworthy sucess stories, including Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers, Earl Warren, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, former president and prime minister of Pakistan. Photo Credit: Ben Chaney
    15th Best school by ROI: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • 15th Best school by ROI: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

    Avg. cost in 2009: $184,900 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,224,000 Annual ROI: 11.6% A private technical school in Massachussetts, Worcester Polytechnic Institute prides itself on its research in the newest fields of engineering, where its students push themselves to solve real world problems. Noted also for its distinctive academic calendar that breaks the year down into seven week blocks, students entering their senior year at Worcester Polytechnic have already completed the equivalent of four full years at other institutions. That “extra year” helps many find great success after graduation. Famous alumni include Robert Goddard, the father of rocket science for whom NASA’s Maryland campus was named, and Robert Stempel, who served as CEO of General Motors. Photo Credit: Justin Brockie
    14th Best school by ROI: Amherst College
  • 14th Best school by ROI: Amherst College

    Avg. cost in 2009: $188,200 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,259,000 Annual ROI: 11.6% Undeniably one of the country’s best liberal-arts colleges, Amherst takes an open-minded approach to education that keeps graduation requirements to a minimum. Amherst lets students take courses at every level, despite their year. Also, any student can design his or her own major. Amherst was America's first college to establish departments in interdisciplinary fields such as American Studies, Neuroscience and Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought. Notable alumni include Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, former director of the CIA John Deutch, and novelist Dan Brown, whose novels, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, were huge international successes. Photo Credit: Jared and Corin
    13th Best school by ROI: Union College, New York
  • 13th Best school by ROI: Union College, New York

    Avg. cost in 2009: $186,500 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,262,000 Annual ROI: 11.7% Founded in Schenectady in 1795, Union College was the first college established by the state of New York after the American Revolution. Its early graduates were instrumental in education and politics, and included luminaries such as William H. Seward, the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, and Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president of the U.S. The history of political and international service is alive and well at Union College, as 60% of today's students have engaged in some form of international study by the time they graduate. Photo Credit: Doug Kerr
    12th Best school by ROI: Lehigh University
  • 12th Best school by ROI: Lehigh University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $180,400 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,308,000 Annual ROI: 11.9% Founded as a technical school, Lehigh University in Pennsylvania has attracted much interest in its education and business programs in recent years, and for the approach to a well-rounded skill set throughout the university’s programs. Examples of Lehigh’s broad range of influence can be seen in the diverse successes of the university and its graduates. Alumnus Lee Iacocca, former manager of the Ford Motor Co., developed the iconic Ford Mustang. Jesse Reno invented the escalator. Howard H. McClintic and Charles D. Marshall built the Golden Gate Bridge. And when the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded in 2003, NASA chose Lehigh University to assist with the analysis of shuttle debris thanks to its advanced microscope technology. Photo Credit: tmaull
    11th Best school by ROI: Duke University
  • 11th Best school by ROI: Duke University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $187,600 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,319,000 Annual ROI: 11.8% With a campus covering 8,610 acres in North Carolina that houses over 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Duke University has long been one of the leading research institutions in the U.S. With a focus on developing its science and technology programs, Duke has made many notable advances in the field, including the first demonstration of an invisibility cloak in 2006. Duke alumni also include a seemingly endless list of influential politicians, including former president Richard Nixon, former senator Elizabeth Dole, and recent presidential candidate Ron Paul. Photo Credit: Matt Phillips
    10th Best school by ROI: University of Pennsylvania
  • 10th Best school by ROI: University of Pennsylvania

    Avg. cost in 2009: $191,300 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,361,000 Annual ROI: 11.8% Founded by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest and largest in the U.S. The institution has long been a pioneer: It inaugurated the country’s first medical school, the first collegiate-level business school (Wharton), and the world’s first general-purpose digital computer in 1946. The American Medical Association was also founded at Penn, and its medical programs continue to attract both students and funding. With 11 billionaires in its alumni ranks, including Donald Trump and Warren Buffet, as well as Mort Zuckerman of the New York Daily News and investor Ron Perelman, Penn has been remarkably successful in churning out moguls in all corners of business and finance. Photo Credit: Sol Young
    9th Best school by ROI: University of Notre Dame
  • 9th Best school by ROI: University of Notre Dame

    Avg. cost in 2009: $181,900 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,384,000 Annual ROI: 12.1% The only religious institution on the list, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana may be slightly conservative socially (students in on-campus housing must live in sex-segregated dorms), but that doesn’t mean its academic endeavors are. A focus on particle physics and astronomy has generated some opposition from the Vatican, but it also led to the university’s important role in many aspects of scientific research. While many of its most famous alumni come from Notre Dame’s legacy of top-notch football (Joe Theisman, Joe Montana, Tim Brown), a number of influential politicians such as Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State for George W. Bush, and media personalities like Regis Philbin have also carried the prestigious name to the public. Photo Credit: Robert Emperley
    8th Best school by ROI: Yale University
  • 8th Best school by ROI: Yale University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $194,200 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,392,000 Annual ROI: 11.9% The third-oldest university in the U.S., Yale was the first in the nation to offer the Ph.D. in 1861. Since then it has produced a wealthy and generous body of alumni who give at a rate of 41%, the second-highest among U.S. universities. Its endowment of more than $16 billion is also the second highest in the U.S. It’s no surprise Yale has produced a glut of politicians. Yale alumni include presidents George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas all sit on the Supreme Court, and Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State. Photo Credit: Marc Smith
    7th Best school by ROI: Princeton University
  • 7th Best school by ROI: Princeton University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $187,700 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,517,000 Annual ROI: 12.3% With a focus on education in the humanities, Princeton University proudly boasts the highest alumni giving rate in the U.S., with 61 percent of graduates contributing to the institution’s massive $11.3 billion endowment. While Princeton graduates get the 7th best return on investment among American universities, they are also notable for their low average indebtedness compared to seniors on financial aid at other institutions. Princeton has produced prestigious alumni in many fields. In politics, former president John F. Kennedy chose Princeton for his first year of university; in literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time at Princeton influenced his masterwork, The Great Gatsby. In business there is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Photo Credit: Linda
    6th Best school by ROI: Stanford University
  • 6th Best school by ROI: Stanford University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $191,800 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,565,000 Annual ROI: 12.3% Stanford University’s proximity to California’s famous Silicon Valley, a hub of innovation in computer science and engineering, reflects the institution’s symbiotic relationship with the hi-tech world it helped to create. Relationships between ongoing university programs and alumni projects in the local private tech sector have helped its students tap into a network of entrepreneurship that has seen many of them achieve great success. Such success has given Stanford credit for the companies founded by its alumni, such as both founders of Hewlett-Packard, Google, Cisco Systems and Yahoo!, as well as Sun Microsystems and apparel companies Nike and Gap. Photo Credit: Jeff Pearce
    5th Best school by ROI: Dartmouth College
  • 5th Best school by ROI: Dartmouth College

    Avg. cost in 2009: $188,400 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,587,000 Annual ROI: 12.4% Established in rural New Hampshire at a time when the U.S. was still just a collection of British colonies, Dartmouth College took some time to reach the prestigious place it has held in the past century. Dartmouth alums have gone on to important roles in arts and politics. Dr. Seuss, the children’s author, was a Dartmouth graduate, as was Mr. Rogers from the eponymous children’s TV show. For adult audiences, Dartmouth produced two treasury secretaries faced with overcoming America's worst recession in decades: former secretary Hank Paulson and current secretary Tim Geithner. Photo Credit: Ken
    4th Best school by ROI: Harvey Mudd College
  • 4th Best school by ROI: Harvey Mudd College

    Avg. cost in 2009: $187,700 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,627,000 Annual ROI: 12.5% With only 738 students, Harvey Mudd College in California is ultra-focused, offering only nine majors in science, engineering, and mathematics. Part of the Claremont Colleges partnership that shares its campus, Mudd encourages studies in the liberal arts. However, it only provides those classes as a way to enrich their education as scientists. Its alumni may not so famous but their financial success puts Harvey Mudd at fourth place on the ranking for ROI. It produced two astronauts (George Nelson and Stan Love) and a number of software engineers, including the co-inventor of the MIME e-mail protocol, and the co-inventor of the SQL database management language. Photo Credit: Cliff Hutson
    3rd Best school by ROI: Harvard University
  • 3rd Best school by ROI: Harvard University

    Avg. cost in 2009: $189,600 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,631,000 Annual ROI: 12.5% Perhaps no university has a stronger brand than Harvard, the oldest university in the U.S., established in 1636. With a world-record endowment of almost $26 billion, it consistently ranks at the top of pretty much every ranking that has been established to compare institutes of higher learning, and it boasts the second-largest library in the U.S. after only the Library of Congress. The university’s influence on American history and culture are clear. Between Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and president Barack Obama, the list is endless. While reports indicate that the current recession has taken a serious chunk out of the university’s endowment, previous experience suggests that Harvard will continue to be one of the country’s leading universities for some time. Photo Credit: Tim Sackton
    2nd Best school by ROI: California Institute of Technology
  • 2nd Best school by ROI: California Institute of Technology

    Avg. cost in 2009: $181,100 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,644,000 Annual ROI: 12.6% Founded as a vocational school in 1891, the California Institute of Technology quickly re-established itself as one of the premier research universities in the United States. Its unique relationship with NASA began in 1936, when the federally-funded Jet Propulsion Laboratory was founded, with CalTech assuming management and operation of the center. Despite its small size of more than 2000 students a year, CalTech boasts more Nobel prizes per alum than any other institution, with more than one in 1,400 alumni winning the prize. CalTech alumni have discovered or invented positrons, atomic weapons, the transistor, the photocopier, the Richter scale, a number of mathematical theorems and computer programming languages. One student, Huckleberry Seed, left CalTech to play professional poker. He did so well he never returned to finish his degree. Photo Credit: Keenan Pepper
    Best school by ROI: Massachussetts Institute of Technology
  • Best school by ROI: Massachussetts Institute of Technology

    Avg. cost in 2009: $189,300 30-yr ROI (2010 dollars): $1,688,000 Annual ROI: 12.6% The Massachussetts Institute of Technology takes the top spot over longtime rival CalTech. As a technical school, it was always focused on practicality, emphasizing lab work and working closely with defense research to develop radar, guidance systems, and computer programs during World War II and the Cold War. Such efforts have made MIT grads especially successful after graduation; a study last year even determined that adding up the revenues of companies founded by MIT grads would add up to the 17th-largest economy in the world. Among those companies created by MIT alumni are Intel, 3Com, Texas Instruments, Raytheon, McDonnell Douglas, Qualcomm, Bose, and even Cambell Soup. In other fields, alumni such as architect I. M. Pei, columnist Paul Krugman, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin have carried the prestige of the institute to the outside world. Photo Credit: Francisco Diez
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