Harvard, Stanford, and 20 other colleges that are worth the money

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It doesn’t hurt to be educated on the potential return.
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Via Flickr

A college education is a big investment of both time and money. All you can do is choose the right program, work hard, and hope it pays off.

“College is one of the biggest investments a person will make in their lifetime, so it’s important to think of its financial implication,” Aubrey Bach, PayScale’s head of alumni analytics, tells Business Insider. “PayScale’s College ROI Report gives students and their families access to this exact information so that they can decide which school is the best fit for their career goals and their financial situation. We want to help keep students from taking out loans they won’t be able to pay back.”

With average student-loan debt hovering around $35,000, students and parents can’t afford not to consider earning potential postgraduation, she says.

PayScale says, however, that this doesn’t mean students should pursue only majors with the highest earning potential or make decisions about where to attend school based solely off college ROI rankings. They need to do what will make them happy – but it doesn’t hurt to be educated on their potential return.

As it turns out, some schools are doing a much better job of setting their students up for success in the job market than others.

The top schools for college return on investment (not taking into account financial aid) this year are the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvey Mudd College.

All data used to produce PayScale’s Return on Investment Package were collected from employees who successfully completed PayScale’s employee survey. To calculate the ROI, PayScale looked at the investment in each college, which includes the cost of attending, as calculated by the cost for a graduate in 2015, on and off campus – and then looked at the 20-year return for each college, which is the expected future income stream. (Click here to read more about the methodology.)

PayScale’s list can be sorted by the best value colleges for various majors and career paths, as well as ROI at a school overall. You can see which colleges are providing the best monetary return for their alumni via low cost of attendance, high earning potential, or a combination of the two.

See the full interactive list here, and keep scrolling for the top 22 colleges for your money. The “total cost” and “20 year ROI” figures are for students who live on campus.


22. Harvard University

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Michael Hicks/flickr

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $235,000

Net 20 year ROI: $739,000

Graduation rate: 98%


21. Missouri University of Science and Technology (in-state)

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Missouri University of Science and Technology/Facebook

Type of school: Public

Total cost: $87,500

Net 20 year ROI: $756,000

Graduation rate: 63%


20. Georgia Institute of Technology (out-of-state)

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Facebook/georgiatech

Type of school: Public

Total cost: $168,000

Net 20 year ROI: $756,000

Graduation rate: 82%


19. University of Pennsylvania

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Via Wikimedia Commons

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $243,000

Net 20 year ROI: $760,000

Graduation rate: 96%


18. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology/Facebook

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $225,000

Net 20 year ROI: $769,000

Graduation rate: 72%


17. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute/Facebook

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $228,000

Net 20 year ROI: $776,000

Graduation rate: 85%


16. Stevens Institute of Technology

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Via Wikimedia Commons

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $239,000

Net 20 year ROI: $781,000

Graduation rate: 82%


15. Colorado School of Mines (out-of-state)

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Colorado School of Mines/Facebook

Type of school: Public

Total cost: $181,000

Net 20 year ROI: $783,000

Graduation rate: 76%


14. Kettering University

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Kettering University/Facebook

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $199,000

Net 20 year ROI: $785,000

Graduation rate: 57%


13. Massachusetts Maritime Academy (in-state)

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Massachusetts Maritime Academy/flickr

Type of school: Public

Total cost: $86,000

Net 20 year ROI: $787,000

Graduation rate: 70%


12. Babson College

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Babson College/Facebook

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $238,000

Net 20 year ROI: $794,000

Graduation rate: 90%


11. University of California at Berkeley (in-state)

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Via Flickr

Type of school: Public

Total cost: $133,000

Net 20 year ROI: $806,000

Graduation rate: 91%


10. Carnegie Mellon University

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Flickr/Miles Gehm

Type of school:Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $243,000

Net 20 year ROI: $811,000

Graduation rate: 88%


9. Princeton University

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Flickr / James Loesch

Type of school:Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $224,000

Net 20 year ROI: $820,000

Graduation rate: 97%


8. Georgia Institute of Technology (in-state)

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Georgia Tech/Facebook

Type of school:Public

Total cost: $91,500

Net 20 year ROI: $833,000

Graduation rate: 82%


7. Colorado School of Mines (in-state)

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Colorado School of Mines/Facebook

Type of school:Public

Total cost: $118,000

Net 20 year ROI: $846,000

Graduation rate: 76%


6. Stanford University

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Kazuhisa OTSUBO/flickr

Type of school: Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $240,000

Net 20 year ROI: $854,000

Graduation rate: 95%


5. SUNY — Maritime College (out-of-state)

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SUNY Maritime College/Facebook

Type of school: Public

Total cost: $126,000

Net 20 year ROI: $ 908,000

Graduation rate: 47%


4. SUNY — Maritime College (in-state)

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SUNY Maritime College/Facebook

Type of school:Public

Total cost: $89,000

Net 20 year ROI: $945,000

Graduation rate: 47%


3. Harvey Mudd College

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Harvey Mudd College/Facebook

Type of school:Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $249,000

Net 20 year ROI: $945,000

Graduation rate: 90%


2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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MIT/Facebook

Type of school:Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $232,000

Net 20 year ROI: $972,000

Graduation rate: 91%


1. California Institute of Technology

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Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

Type of school:Private not-for-profit

Total cost: $230,000

Net 20 year ROI: $973,000

Graduation rate: 92%