Colleges With Best Return on Investment

gradI didn't get into journalism for the money. No one does. I had no idea before entering college how much a bachelor's degree in journalism would be worth, and if my return on investment would be worthwhile.

I doubt if I would have changed my mind if I had access back then to something like the "College ROI Report" that PayScale recently released. It ranks colleges by the best return on investment, measuring how much money a college grad would earn in 20 years after graduation, minus college loans and the total cost of attending college for four years.

Some schools, as PayScale reports, do a much better job of preparing their alumni for the job market than others. And some majors and careers lead to a much better return on investment than others, such as computer science and math over journalism.

A different return on investment

Monetary returns, of course, aren't the only ways to measure the success of a college education. But they're pretty compelling if one of your top goals is to go to a college that has a high ROI and is likely to help you land a good paying job.

Private schools led the list. Harvey Mudd College, a private college in Claremont, Calif., that caters mainly to engineering students, led the list with a 20-year net return on investment of $985,300.

Among majors, computer science and math grads had the best ROI at $1,619,700 over 20 years after graduating from Stanford University.

I won't go over the entire list here, but it's worth noting that wherever you plan to go to college, start saving for it now. Or at least start saving so your children can attend college.

The average college student graduates with almost $30,000 in student loans, according to PayScale. Given that the top schools in its ROI report cost $200,000 or so for four years, that loan amount doesn't look so high.

Even so, I'll take what I have with my journalism degree. I paid off my small student loans within a few years of graduating, and while my lifetime earnings won't match what an engineer does, such as those creating thin films for electronic devices using physical vapor deposition systems, I enjoy my work much more than I ever thought I would.


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4 thoughts on “Colleges With Best Return on Investment

  1. I was on the path of being a journalism major myself, although I ended up switching to PR and advertising later on. But like you said, I doubt I would have changed my mind about my major even if I had read the rankings of the college ROI reports. I guess it all depends on your situation and where your priorities/abilities lie.

    1. Post author

      From what I get out of the ROI report, math and engineering majors have the best advantages in picking a college with a high ROI. Their choice can lead to them getting a better paying job and earn more over their lifetimes vs other schools. But I too doubt that many people change their majors based on lifetime pay expectations.

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