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Attending college is one of the most expensive investments an individual will ever make. Now that over 70 percent of graduating seniors can expect to enter the workforce with an average student loan debt of $29,400, choosing a college degree with the highest possible return on a student's investment is becoming more and more of a priority.

BestColleges is here to help students weigh the costs and benefits of their educational options. Using data collected by Payscale.com, we've put together a list of 50 public schools that offer in-state students the highest return on their tuition dollar. "Return on Investment" or ROI rankings for each school are primarily comprised from two factors — the true cost of attending a school weighed against the median earning power of its graduates over 30 years.

  1. Rank School Location Tuition +
  2. Rank
    1
    School

    SUNY – Maritime College

    Location
    Throggs Neck, NY
    Tuition
    $90,000 program total

    Websites

    Address

    6 Pennyfield Avenue
    Throggs Neck, NY 10465-4198
    (718) 409-7200

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    As the name implies, SUNY Maritime College specializes in programs related to marine engineering, shipping, oceanic transportation, and other maritime industries. Many graduates go on to pursue careers as ship captains, engineers, construction and building managers, and environmental safety technicians. SUNY Maritime College's ROI placed highest among all public universities, and beat out every Ivy League school, thanks to its relatively low tuition (roughly $90,000 for the complete degree) compared to the starting salaries of its graduates, which tend to be upward of $55,000 per year.

    • Cost: $90,530
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,586,000
    • % Aid: 43%
    • Average Aid Amount: $5,567
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,552,000
  3. Rank
    2
    School

    Colorado School of Mines

    Location
    Golden, CO
    Tuition
    $107,100 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1500 Illinois St
    Golden, CO 80401
    (303) 273-3000

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    Bachelor's degrees in mechanical, chemical, and general engineering are the most sought after credentials at the Colorado School of Mines. The school's focus is mining technology, with an emphasis on applied science and environmental resource protection. As a result, many graduates go on to pursue careers as geophysicists, resource protection officers, and, most prominently, engineers. An abundance of student aid is one of reasons why Colorado School of Mines' ROI is so high; roughly 3,700 enrolled students receive financial aid, and the average recipient will be awarded more than $7,000 during the course of their studies.

    • Cost: $107,100
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,547,000
    • % Aid: 66%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,282
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,510,000
  4. Rank
    3
    School

    Georgia Institute of Technology

    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Tuition
    $87,030 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    225 North Ave
    Atlanta, GA 30332-0530
    (404) 894-2000

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    According to Payscale, the seven career sectors that Georgia Institute of Technology graduates most often pursue are all concentrated in engineering: software, mechanical, electrical, aerospace, project, civil, and senior mechanical. Among these careers, the average annual salary is $73,137 ― roughly $14,000 less than the cost of a complete degree program. For this reason (as well as the average amount of financial aid received by students), it's easy to see why GIT graduates earn such a high ROI over the course of 30 years.

    • Cost: $87,030
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,389,000
    • % Aid: 78%
    • Average Aid Amount: $10,946
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,440,000
  5. Rank
    4
    School

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy

    Location
    Buzzards Bay, MA
    Tuition
    $96,380 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    101 Academy Dr
    Buzzards Bay, MA 02532-1803
    (508) 830-5000

    Accreditation

    NEASC/CIHE

    School Description

    Massachusetts Maritime Academy offers degrees in marine engineering, environmental protection, international business, and other fields closely linked with the maritime sector. The leading career path for graduates, marine engineer, earns a median annual salary that exceeds the cost of a degree at the school by nearly $10,000; the starting salaries of other popular career paths, such as operations engineer, field engineer, and environmental coordinator, hover between $40,000 and $60,000.

    • Cost: $96,380
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,316,000
    • % Aid: 48%
    • Average Aid Amount: $5,045
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,338,000
  6. Rank
    5
    School

    South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

    Location
    Rapid City, SD
    Tuition
    $85,830 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    501 E Saint Joseph St
    Rapid City, SD 57701-3995
    (605) 394-2511

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    The average student who graduates from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology will go on to pursue a career in a variety of lucrative fields like electrical, mining, and project engineering, where he or she will earn a starting salary of $62,400 ― which is roughly $23,400 less than the total cost of a four-year degree. The school offers more than 40 bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. programs, most of which focus on engineering disciplines.

    • Cost: $85,830
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,228,000
    • % Aid: 73%
    • Average Aid Amount: $4,128
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,248,000
  7. Rank
    6
    School

    New Jersey Institute of Technology

    Location
    Newark, NJ
    Tuition
    $134,100 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    University Heights
    Newark, NJ 07102
    (973) 596-3000

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    Offering more than 120 degree programs that encompass 27 academic disciplines, NJIT is one of the most extensive institutes of technology in the country. The school's diverse degree selection, as well as numerous on-campus research opportunities, enable graduates to enter the workforce with plenty of skills and experience under their belts― and this readiness translates nicely into high salaries. The five leading careers for NJIT graduates ― electrical engineer, software engineer, senior software developer/programmer, mechanical engineer, and senior software engineer ― average a median annual salary of roughly $80,000. The school's expensive tuition (highest on our list of 50) keeps the already sizable 30-year ROI from being even higher.

    • Cost: $134,100
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,223,000
    • % Aid: 72%
    • Average Aid Amount: $13,573
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,290,000
  8. Rank
    7
    School

    Missouri University of Science and Technology

    Location
    Rolla, MO
    Tuition
    $94,380 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1870 Miner Circle
    Rolla, MO 65409
    (573) 341-4111

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    Missouri University of Science and Technology's engineering programs have earned lots of praise from academic experts, and student outcomes are one of the main reasons why. The seven leading career paths for graduates are concentrated in engineering, and all of them boast median annual salaries of at least $60,000 ― but none of them exceed $74,000, which would explain why a few other schools boast superior 30-year ROIs. The school is also distinguished for the percentage of students who receive financial aid (91%); nearly 7,000 enrolled students receive an average financial aid award of $7,394 over the course of four years.

    • Cost: $94,380
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,183,000
    • % Aid: 91%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,394
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,217,000
  9. Rank
    8
    School

    University of California – Berkeley

    Location
    Berkeley, CA
    Tuition
    $125,000 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    200 California Hall
    Berkeley, CA 94720
    (510) 642-6000

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    UC Berkeley boasts a higher 30-year ROI than any other public school that offers degrees in the liberal arts, as well as STEM disciplines ― most likely because the leading career paths for graduates are concentrated in high-paying fields like engineering, technology, and business administration. The three leading careers ― software engineer, senior software engineer, and mechanical engineer ― earn an average median salary of $96,878; however, the ROI for UC Berkeley grads is a little lower due to the $125,000 price-tag for a four-year degree (second highest among the top 10 schools on our list).

    • Cost: $125,000
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,182,000
    • % Aid: 56%
    • Average Aid Amount: $15,272
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,246,000
  10. Rank
    9
    School

    California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

    Location
    San Luis Obispo, CA
    Tuition
    $97,730 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1 Grand Ave.
    San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
    (805) 756-1111

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    CalPoly annually ranks among the finest tech institutes in the country, but in terms of ROI, the school is outmatched by smaller tech institutions that charge less in annual tuition and/or award more financial aid to students. Graduates most often go on to pursue careers in engineering, construction management, computer science, and other STEM fields ― as well as architecture, which (according to Payscale) is CalPoly's third most popular bachelor's degree program.

    • Cost: $97,730
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,151,000
    • % Aid: 37%
    • Average Aid Amount: $6,198
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,180,000
  11. Rank
    10
    School

    University of Massachusetts – Lowell

    Location
    Lowell, MA
    Tuition
    $97,130 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1 University Ave
    Lowell, MA 01854-5104
    (978) 934-4000

    Accreditation

    NEASC/CIHE

    School Description

    UMass is relatively inexpensive (by New England standards) and three-quarters of the roughly 17,000-strong student body receives an average of $6,853 in financial aid during four years of enrollment. These two factors allow the school to outmatch most other public state universities in terms of ROI. The average outgoing graduate will earn a starting annual salary of $50,000 at their first place of employment; many alumni pursue careers in engineering fields, as well as accounting.

    • Cost: $97,130
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,094,000
    • % Aid: 75%
    • Average Aid Amount: $6,853
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,124,000
  12. Rank
    11
    School

    Texas A&M University

    Location
    College Station, TX
    Tuition
    $88,920 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    805 Rudder Tower
    College Station, TX 77843-1244
    (979) 845-3211

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Of the top U.S. schools for student enrollment, Texas A&M has the highest ROI (more than $100,000 greater than the University of Texas, Austin, which ranked at #27 on our list). The average graduate will earn a starting annual salary of $51,900. The most lucrative career path for alumni is petroleum engineering, which awards a median salary of $109,000 per year; other high-paying fields include mechanical engineering, construction management, and software engineering.

    • Cost: $88,920
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,057,000
    • % Aid: 61%
    • Average Aid Amount: $9,531
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,099,000
  13. Rank
    12
    School

    University of California – San Diego

    Location
    La Jolla, CA
    Tuition
    $115,500 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    9500 Gilman Dr
    La Jolla, CA 92093
    (858) 534-2230

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    UCSD charges lower tuition than most other schools in the University of California system (including Los Angeles, Davis, and Santa Barbara) and awards higher financial aid amounts to a greater percentage of the student body. All of these factors contribute to the stellar ROI of graduates who earn a degree from UCSD. The school's most popular career paths are concentrated in lucrative STEM fields like engineering, software development, and biotechnology.

    • Cost: $115,500
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,042,000
    • % Aid: 68%
    • Average Aid Amount: $15,325
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,109,000
  14. Rank
    13
    School

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    Location
    Blacksburg, VA
    Tuition
    $91,790 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    222 Burruss Hall
    Blacksburg, VA 24061-0131
    (540) 231-6000

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Of the 30,000+ students who attend Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech for short), those who graduate with a degree will, on average, earn a starting salary of $51,700. However, the ROI is lower at VT because of low financial aid rewards; only 57% receive aid, and the average allotment for four years is $5,517 (roughly 6% of the cost of a degree). Higher-ranking schools on our list (with the exception of #1 and #4) boast a larger percentage of students that receive financial aid.

    • Cost: $91,790
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,037,000
    • % Aid: 57%
    • Average Aid Amount: $5,517
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,061,000
  15. Rank
    14
    School

    College of William and Mary

    Location
    Williamsburg, VA
    Tuition
    $92,910 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    200 Richmond Road
    Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
    (757) 221-4000

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    The second-oldest university in the United States is also one of the most lucrative, according to Payscale, as well as the highest-ranking institution on our list that doesn't list STEM fields as the most popular career paths. Instead, graduates gravitate toward careers as management consultants, attorneys, business and marketing executives ― all of which earn starting salaries upward of $95,000 per year. Only 31% of the student body (roughly 2,600 individuals) receives financial aid, but the average award constitutes more than 15% of the cost of a four-year degree.

    • Cost: $92,910
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,036,000
    • % Aid: 31%
    • Average Aid Amount: $14,461
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,095,000
  16. Rank
    15
    School

    University of Illinois at Urbana

    Location
    Champaign, IL
    Tuition
    $109,000 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    601 E John Street
    Champaign, IL 61820-5711
    (217) 333-1000

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    The University of Illinois at Urbana consists of more than 150 degree programs offered through 17 different colleges, but according to Payscale, the most popular career paths for students are concentrated in high-paying fields like engineering and computer science. The school's emphasis on STEM studies and research essentially counteracts the high annual tuition and low percentage of students who receive financial aid, and allows the average graduate to enjoy a higher ROI than those who attend most other state universities.

    • Cost: $109,000
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,028,000
    • % Aid: 46%
    • Average Aid Amount: $11,274
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,075,000
  17. Rank
    16
    School

    Stony Brook University

    Location
    Stony Brook, NY
    Tuition
    $82,620 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    310 Administration Building
    Stony Brook, NY 11794
    (631) 632-6000

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    Many of Stony Brook University's graduates pursue careers in mechanical, electrical, and software engineering, but a substantial number of alumni also enter the fields of nursing and education (both secondary and postsecondary), as well. Typically, graduates earn $48,600 after graduation ― which is more than half the cost of four years' tuition at the university. Additionally, more than two-thirds of the student body will receive an average financial aid amount of $7,473 during the course of their degree program.

    • Cost: $82,620
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $1,023,000
    • % Aid: 68%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,473
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,056,000
  18. Rank
    17
    School

    New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

    Location
    Socorro, NM
    Tuition
    $70,930 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    801 Leroy Place
    Socorro, NM 87801
    (800) 428-8324

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    Only one other school on our list tops New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology's 92% of students who receive financial aid; the average financial amount for recipients is $6,647, which is roughly 9% of the cost of a degree at the institute. The seven leading career paths include hydrogeology and six different engineering disciplines; typically, graduates earn a starting salary of $50,500 once they've obtained a degree from New Mexico Tech.

    • Cost: $70,930
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $999,500
    • % Aid: 92%
    • Average Aid Amount: $6,647
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,030,000
  19. Rank
    18
    School

    Michigan Technological University

    Location
    Houghton, MI
    Tuition
    $108,200 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1400 Townsend Drive
    Houghton, MI 49931-1295
    (906) 487-1885

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    At 93%, no public school on our list awards more financial aid to its student body; the average recipient is given $10,236 over the course of four years. Coupled with the typical graduate's starting salary of $59,200, it's easy to see why Michigan Tech boasts such a high ROI for students that earn a degree there. All seven of the schools most popular career paths are in engineering fields; many students additionally earn their degree from Michigan Tech's prestigious School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, which is considered by many academic experts to be among the finest institutions of its kind in the world.

    • Cost: $108,200
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $999,300
    • % Aid: 93%
    • Average Aid Amount: $10,236
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,047,000
  20. Rank
    19
    School

    Montana Tech

    Location
    Butte, MT
    Tuition
    $78,130 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1300 W Park St
    Butte, MT 59701-8997
    (406) 496-4256

    Accreditation

    NCCU

    School Description

    Montana Tech graduates, on average, earn an impressive starting salary of $63,100. This is because many of them earn specialized degrees that prepare them for careers in high-paying fields like hydrogeology, mine engineering, petroleum engineering, and industrial hygiene. And since four years' tuition of $78,130 (the sixth lowest in our list) is just $15,000 higher than the average starting salary, graduates stand to earn a considerable ROI over the course of 30 years.

    • Cost: $78,130
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $985,100
    • % Aid: 81%
    • Average Aid Amount: $5,349
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,010,000
  21. Rank
    20
    School

    San Jose State University

    Location
    San Jose, CA
    Tuition
    $108,000 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1 Washington Sq
    San Jose, CA 95192-0001
    (408) 924-1000

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    Engineering careers are common among SJSU alumni, as are graduates who obtain jobs as office managers, HR professionals, senior accountants, and software developers. Tuition is lower at San Jose State than just about any school in the University of California system, but so is the percentage of students receiving financial aid ― just 42% ― and the average award for recipients barely covers 9% of a four-year degree. The difference in ROI between students who receive aid those who do not is greater than $50,000.

    • Cost: $108,000
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $983,000
    • % Aid: 42%
    • Average Aid Amount: $9,863
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,034,000
  22. Rank
    21
    School

    Oregon Institute of Technology

    Location
    Klamath Falls, OR
    Tuition
    $84,511 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    3201 Campus Drive
    Klamath Falls, OR 97601-8801
    (541) 885-1000

    Accreditation

    NCCU

    School Description

    The average OIT graduate will earn $57,000 per year fresh out of college; engineering fields, as well as professional surveying, comprise the school's most popular career paths. However, students who earn degrees in these disciplines at other tech schools tend to earn higher salaries. For instance, mechanical engineers and project engineers who obtain their degrees at Michigan Tech outearn OIT graduates in the same fields by a rough margin of $3,000 and $2,000 per year, respectively. This explains why OIT's ROI is not as high as other schools of its ilk.

    • Cost: $84,510
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $979,100
    • % Aid: 66%
    • Average Aid Amount: $5,328
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,003,000
  23. Rank
    22
    School

    University of California – Santa Barbara

    Location
    Santa Barbara, CA
    Tuition
    $121,400 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    5221 Cheadle Hall
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106
    (805) 893-8000

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    The annual tuition of UCSB outmatches the typical starting salary for graduates by a margin of nearly three-to-one. However, according to Payscale, students who attend this school are likely to see their annual salaries more than double after just 10 years in the workforce. For this reason, the average UCSB grad will enjoy relatively high ROIs. It's also worth noting that the average financial aid recipient will be awarded an amount that represents more than 12% of the cost of four years' tuition.

    • Cost: $121,400
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $939,900
    • % Aid: 57%
    • Average Aid Amount: $15,522
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $1,005,000
  24. Rank
    23
    School

    Purdue University

    Location
    West Lafayette, IN
    Tuition
    $93,210 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    Hovde Hall of Administration
    West Lafayette, IN 47907-2040
    (765) 494-4600

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    Purdue has earned acclaim for its engineering degree programs for more than a century ― and today, students who enroll there gravitate toward engineering science more than any other major. According to Payscale, the most popular career paths include mechanical, project, electrical, and software engineering; all of these fields award median annual salaries of at least $64,000. Since Purdue's tuition is a little higher than most technical institutions, the ROI for graduates is also slightly lower ― but still well above average.

    • Cost: $93,210
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $935,000
    • % Aid: 47%
    • Average Aid Amount: $9,243
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $976,700
  25. Rank
    24
    School

    University of Maryland-College Park

    Location
    College Park, MD
    Tuition
    $92,510 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    College Park, MD 20742
    (301) 405-1000

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    The University of Maryland is a popular school for students who pursue degrees in both business administration and STEM-related fields. The most widely selected career paths among the school's alumni include software and mechanical engineering, IT project management, and human resources. While all of these fields generally award median salaries upward of $64,000, the average starting salary for all graduates is closer to $50,000, and the median salary for grads who have been in the workforce for up to nine years is $71,267. The school's relatively low tuition (for a state university on the East Coast) is the main reason why the ROI for graduates is higher than usual.

    • Cost: $92,510
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $934,800
    • % Aid: 64%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,232
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $965,300
  26. Rank
    25
    School

    Southern Polytechnic State University

    Location
    Marietta, GA
    Tuition
    $79,290 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1100 S. Marietta Parkway
    Marietta, GA 30060-2896
    (678) 915-4188

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Engineering is the bread-and-butter of SPSU, which exclusively dedicates three of its five sub-colleges to engineering fields. Coupled with a four-year price-tag that falls below $80,000, it might come as a surprise that the school doesn't provide a higher ROI for its graduates. However, according to Payscale, engineering fields tend to be less lucrative for SPSU grads than for alumni from different schools with the same credentials. After nine years in the workforce, the average graduate is only earning $13,000 more than the typical starting salary.

    • Cost: $79,290
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $934,500
    • % Aid: 75%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,167
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $970,700
  27. Rank
    26
    School

    University of Texas at Austin

    Location
    Austin, TX
    Tuition
    $101,500 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    2400 Inner Campus Drive
    Austin, TX 78712
    (512) 471-3434

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Longhorns typically earn a salary of $50,400 once they obtain their degree, but some of the school's leading career paths ― such as attorneys and petroleum engineers ― will be logging a six-figure after just a few years in the workforce. Barely half of the students who enroll at the University of Texas opt for financial aid, but the average recipient will see his or her ROI grow by $40,000 over the course of 30 years on the job.

    • Cost: $101,500
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $931,100
    • % Aid: 54%
    • Average Aid Amount: $9,097
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $971,100
  28. Rank
    27
    School

    University of Maryland-Baltimore County

    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Tuition
    $100,500 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1000 Hilltop Circle
    Baltimore, MD 21250
    (410) 455-1000

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    This extension of the larger University of Maryland in College Park emphasizes engineering, computer science, and other tech-based fields. Some of the most popular career paths for students include mechanical engineering, software and web development, business IT analysis, and graphic design ― which is a mixed bag in terms of median annual earnings. However, the two leading career paths ― software engineering and lead software engineering ― are quite lucrative for UMBC alumni. Software engineers earn a median salary that is $20,000 higher than the typical starting salary for graduates, while lead software engineers stand to earn nearly three times as much.

    • Cost: $100,500
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $930,200
    • % Aid: 56%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,460
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $964,100
  29. Rank
    28
    School

    University of California – Irvine

    Location
    Irvine, CA
    Tuition
    $112,700 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    501 Aldrich Hall
    Irvine, CA 92697
    (949) 824-5011

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    UC Irvine boasts cheaper tuition than any of the three University of California branches that appear higher on our list (Berkeley, San Diego, and Santa Barbara), and graduates earn a starting salary ($48,900) that is comparable with these schools. So why isn't the 30 Year Net ROI for graduates higher? Degree selection is one of the primary reasons. While engineering fields lead the school in terms of graduate career paths, one of the most popular degree choices is the Bachelor of Arts― a credential linked to notoriously low-paying salaries. However, the average student who opts for financial aid at UCI will see their ROI increase by more than $70,000.

    • Cost: $112,700
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $929,300
    • % Aid: 62%
    • Average Aid Amount: $14,480
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $991,000
  30. Rank
    29
    School

    Baruch College, CUNY

    Location
    New York, NY
    Tuition
    $49,060 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    One Bernard Baruch Way (55 Lexington Ave at 24th St)
    New York, NY 10010
    (646) 312-1000

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    East Coast colleges and universities ― particularly those located in New York ― are infamously expensive, but Baruch College charges lower tuition for a degree than any other college on our top 50 list. Business and finance are the two most popular majors for students, and graduates go on to pursue careers as financial controllers, HR generalists, executive assistants, and senior accountants. Although these jobs aren't as lucrative as careers within STEM fields, median salaries are high enough to earn Baruch College grads a decent ROI on their education.

    • Cost: $49,060
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $924,100
    • % Aid: 79%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,496
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $958,000
  31. Rank
    30
    School

    University of Virginia

    Location
    Charlottesville, VA
    Tuition
    $89,700 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1827 University Avenue
    Charlottesville, VA 22903-2628
    (434) 924-0311

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    University of Virginia students typically pursue degrees in high-paying fields like engineering, finance, law, and business management ― and as a result, the typical starting salary for newly graduated alumni is $51,000. However, the average financial aid recipient will be given more than $15,000, roughly 17% of the cost of a four-year degree, and these individuals will see their ROI rise by more than $60,000 over the course of 30 years in the workforce.

    • Cost: $89,700
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $924,000
    • % Aid: 33%
    • Average Aid Amount: $15,498
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $987,300
  32. Rank
    31
    School

    University of Washington

    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Tuition
    $91,370 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    1400 NE Campus Parkway
    Seattle, WA 98195-4550
    (206) 543-2100

    Accreditation

    NCCU

    School Description

    UW boasts some of the most renowned technology and engineering companies in the country; popular career paths for graduates include high-paying fields like mechanical engineering, software development, and construction management. Furthermore, there is a notable local demand for these professionals; Payscale lists four Seattle-area companies (Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Expedia), along with the school itself, as the five most popular employers for alumni.

    • Cost: $91,370
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $904,300
    • % Aid: 33%
    • Average Aid Amount: $12,323
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $957,400
  33. Rank
    32
    School

    West Virginia University Institute of Technology

    Location
    Montgomery, WV
    Tuition
    $76,610 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    405 Fayette Pike
    Montgomery, WV 25136
    (304) 442-1000

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    West Virginia Tech is the second-lowest-ranking tech school in the top 50 ROI list, primarily due to salary growth over time. Starting salaries for WVT graduates are comparable to other tech schools, but these individuals will earn roughly $6,000 less than their counterparts at CalPoly after 10-19 years on the job and close to $14,000 less after more than 20 years in the workforce. Furthermore, the majority of graduates find work in West Virginia, where the cost-of-living ― and annual earnings ― are much lower than in most other states.

    • Cost: $76,610
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $904,300
    • % Aid: 88%
    • Average Aid Amount: $6,791
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $937,600
  34. Rank
    33
    School

    University of Alabama-Huntsville

    Location
    Huntsville, AL
    Tuition
    $91,240 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    301 Sparkman Dr
    Huntsville, AL 35899
    (256) 824-6120

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Bama's strong emphasis on STEM fields is evident by the list of the most popular career paths for graduates. However, alumni earn much less in these fields (including mechanical engineering and software development) than students who attend a higher-learning institution devoted to technical disciplines. Typically, the starting salary for the school's alumni is $49,600, but the ROI for graduates is relatively high because this figure stands to more than double for those who spend 20 years in the workforce.

    • Cost: $91,240
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $903,500
    • % Aid: 83%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,083
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $937,800
  35. Rank
    34
    School

    University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

    Location
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Tuition
    $100,600 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    503 Thompson Street
    Ann Arbor, MI 48109
    (734) 764-1817

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    Five of the seven leading career paths for Michigan graduates ― mechanical engineering, software engineering, senior mechanical engineering, management consulting, and legal practice ― boast median salaries in excess of $75,000 per year. However, the school boasts a total enrollment of more than 43,000 students ― making it one of the largest universities in the country ― and the wide range of majors (as well as student outcomes related to these fields) drops the typical starting salary for graduates down to $51,000. Michigan's ROI is still higher than most public schools, but some degree-holders will enjoy a much larger ROI than others.

    • Cost: $100,600
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $901,400
    • % Aid: 49%
    • Average Aid Amount: $12,800
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $955,400
  36. Rank
    35
    School

    University of California – Davis

    Location
    Davis, CA
    Tuition
    $122,700 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    One Shields Avenue
    Davis, CA 95616-8678
    (530) 752-1011

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    UC Davis is one of the leading schools in the country for veterinary programs, and some of the other leading career paths for graduates include high-paying fields like engineering, law, and business administration. However, the high cost of tuition ― a common trend between schools in the university of California system ― prevents the ROI from being as high as it might be for students who attend cheaper institutions.

    • Cost: $122,700
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $897,300
    • % Aid: 69%
    • Average Aid Amount: $15,060
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $964,000
  37. Rank
    36
    School

    University of California – Los Angeles

    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Tuition
    $120,000 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    405 Hilgard Ave
    Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405
    (310) 825-4321

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    A large number of UCLA graduates pursue careers as software engineers, executive directors, electrical engineers, and other professions that earn median salaries in excess of $80,000 per year. However, UCLA has a student body of more than 42,000 students, so the starting salary ― and, by extension, the ROI for graduates ― is $49,600, making UCLA the lowest ranking member of the University of California system on our top 50 list.

    • Cost: $120,000
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $890,700
    • % Aid: 61%
    • Average Aid Amount: $15,117
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $955,200
  38. Rank
    37
    School

    Rutgers University – New Brunswick

    Location
    New Brunswick, NJ
    Tuition
    $117,700 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    83 Somerset St
    New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1281
    (732) 932-1766

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    Rutgers University produces its fair share of engineers, software developers, HR directors, and other professionals who earn relatively high annual salaries. But the school's leading career paths also include high school teacher, financial analyst, and other positions with median earnings that exceed the typical starting salary for graduates by less than $10,000.

    • Cost: $117,700
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $886,500
    • % Aid: 53%
    • Average Aid Amount: $10,836
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $934,100
  39. Rank
    38
    School

    Clemson University

    Location
    Clemson, SC
    Tuition
    $104,800 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    201 Sikes Hall
    Clemson, SC 29634
    (864) 656-4636

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Clemson students, like those who attend many of the other schools on our list, gravitate toward engineering degrees. In addition to fields like mechanical, electrical, and software engineering with a popular nationwide following (and relatively high salaries), other engineering fields with lower earnings, such as civil and manufacturing engineering, are also represented in the school's leading career paths. For this reason (as well as higher-than-average tuition prices), the ROI is lower at Clemson than other, cheaper schools that emphasize technical disciplines.

    • Cost: $104,800
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $872,700
    • % Aid: 82%
    • Average Aid Amount: $8,357
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $909,100
  40. Rank
    39
    School

    Binghamton University

    Location
    Vestal, NY
    Tuition
    $80,640 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    4400 Vestal Parkway East
    Vestal, NY 13850-6000
    (607) 777-2000

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    Students who earn a degree from Binghamton University ― the smallest and cheapest of the four schools in the SUNY system ― go on to pursue careers in a wide range of professional fields. Software, mechanical, and electrical engineers stand to earn median salaries in the range of $60,000 to $75,000. However, the typical starting salary for Binghamton grads is $47,200, largely due to the large number of alumni who work as administrative assistants, accountants, operations managers, and other positions that earn much lower salaries.

    • Cost: $80,640
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $861,700
    • % Aid: 52%
    • Average Aid Amount: $6,090
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $887,100
  41. Rank
    40
    School

    George Mason University

    Location
    Fairfax, VA
    Tuition
    $87,760 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    4400 University Dr
    Fairfax, VA 22030-4444
    (703) 993-1000

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Many George Mason graduates go on to pursue careers related to business technology. The school's leading career paths include financial analyst, staff accountant, software engineer, and IT consultant, all of which boast median salaries in the range of roughly $60,000 to $90,000. However, the student body numbers in excess of 33,000 individuals and the school is noted for its liberal arts programs (particularly creative writing) in fields with historically low salaries. As a result, the typical starting annual salary for new graduates is just shy of $50,000 per year.

    • Cost: $87,760
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $857,400
    • % Aid: 46%
    • Average Aid Amount: $8,220
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $893,900
  42. Rank
    41
    School

    The College of New Jersey

    Location
    Ewing, NJ
    Tuition
    $110,900 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    2000 Pennington Road
    Ewing, NJ 08628-0718
    (609) 771-1855

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    Tuition at the College of New Jersey is expensive compared to schools nationwide, but par for the course when it comes to East Coast learning institutions. The cost of attending TCNJ is slightly lower than that of nearby Rutgers, but the latter boasts a higher starting salary for new graduates by a margin of $1,300 per year. Furthermore, Rutgers alumni tend to earn higher median salaries; high school teachers who earn a degree there, for example, will out earn their TCNJ counterparts by more than $3,000. For this reason, TCNJ's ROI is lower than Rutgers'.

    • Cost: $110,900
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $845,900
    • % Aid: 65%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,090
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $875,500
  43. Rank
    42
    School

    University of Alaska Fairbanks

    Location
    Fairbanks, AK
    Tuition
    $75,130 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    505 South Chandalar Drive
    Fairbanks, AK 99775-7500
    (907) 474-7211

    Accreditation

    NCCU

    School Description

    UAF places great emphasis on science and technology programs that are applicable in the field of natural resource management. Graduates commonly pursue careers in high-paying fields like reservoir, petroleum, and civil engineering. Relatively cheap schools that produce a UAF's mid-career salary is $78,600 (ranked 114th for all state universities), which is only $33,000 higher than the typical starting salary for new graduates. One of the main reasons is location; many alumni choose to find work in Alaska, where wages tend to be a little lower compared to the lower 48 states.

    • Cost: $75,130
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $841,300
    • % Aid: 52%
    • Average Aid Amount: $4,541
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $863,300
  44. Rank
    43
    School

    University of Colorado-Boulder

    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Tuition
    $111,300 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    Regent Drive at Broadway
    Boulder, CO 80309-0017
    (303) 492-1411

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    Colorado (particularly the Denver area) is a major technology hub, and many students who attend UCB earn degrees in engineering, computer science, aerospace, and other fields that will enable them to secure high-paying jobs within the state. However, more than 32,000 students attend the university every year, and a significant contingent choose to earn Bachelor of Arts degrees. For this reason, the typical starting salary for new graduates is $46,300; this figure is $3,000 higher at the University of Washington (another big contributor to the tech industry), while the cost of a four-year degree is $20,000 lower at UW.

    • Cost: $111,300
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $838,700
    • % Aid: 39%
    • Average Aid Amount: $8,971
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $879,000
  45. Rank
    44
    School

    University of Delaware

    Location
    Newark, DE
    Tuition
    $90,580 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    104 Hullihen Hall
    Newark, DE 19716
    (302) 831-2000

    Accreditation

    MSCHE

    School Description

    Tuition at the University of Delaware is on the low side for an East Coast school and new graduates (many of whom pursue careers in engineering fields) will typically earn a starting salary of $50,300. However, students who choose to study at the University of Maryland tend to earn more in the same fields. Mechanical engineers who graduate from the University of Maryland, for instance, will outearn their UDel counterparts by more than $3,000 per year.

    • Cost: $90,580
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $837,600
    • % Aid: 54%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,636
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $869,800
  46. Rank
    45
    School

    University of Connecticut

    Location
    Storrs, CT
    Tuition
    $100,100 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    352 Mansfield Road
    Storrs, CT 06269
    (860) 486-2000

    Accreditation

    NEASC/CIHE

    School Description

    New UConn graduates will typically earn a starting salary of $49,700, which is roughly half the price of a four-year degree. However, the leading career paths for alumni ― which are concentrated in engineering, business, and information technology fields ― range in median annual salary from $57,000 to more than $80,000. The ROI at University of Connecticut is relatively high (especially for students who receive financial aid), but UMass Lowell ― where the tuition is cheaper, starting salaries are higher, and alumni tend to earn more in median earnings ― still offers the best deal of any state university in New England.

    • Cost: $100,100
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $833,800
    • % Aid: 63%
    • Average Aid Amount: $11,028
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $880,100
  47. Rank
    46
    School

    North Carolina State University

    Location
    Raleigh, NC
    Tuition
    $78,100 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    2101 Hillsborough Street
    Raleigh, NC 27695-7001
    (919) 515-2011

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    NC State specializes in STEM-related studies, so it's no surprise that the seven leading career paths for alumni are heavily grounded in computer science and engineering. The typical graduate earns a starting salary of $48,500. However, the school is one of the few state universities on our list to place higher in terms of mid-career earnings (#45) than ROI (#47). According to Payscale, the average alumni who has been in the workforce for 10 to 19 years will earn a salary of $84,700 ― more than $6,000 higher than the cost of a four-year degree from NC State.

    • Cost: $78,100
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $832,600
    • % Aid: 53%
    • Average Aid Amount: $9,508
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $875,300
  48. Rank
    47
    School

    University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

    Location
    Minneapolis, MN
    Tuition
    $97,760 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    100 Church Street SE
    Minneapolis, MN 55455-0213
    (612) 625-5000

    Accreditation

    NCACS/THLC

    School Description

    At 88%, the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities awards financial aid to more of its student body than any other state institution on our list. However, the average aid recipient will only be given about 6% of the total cost of a four-year degree, a difference in ROI of less than $25,000. The seven leading career paths for graduates are all in engineering fields, with median salaries that range from $56,000 to nearly $100,000 per year, but a large amount of students who earn degrees in low-paying disciplines like communications effectively bring the typical starting salary down to $48,700.

    • Cost: $97,760
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $825,900
    • % Aid: 88%
    • Average Aid Amount: $5,644
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $850,600
  49. Rank
    48
    School

    Louisiana Tech University

    Location
    Ruston, LA
    Tuition
    $69,980 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    305 Wisteria
    Ruston, LA 71272
    (318) 257-2000

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    Louisiana Tech places lower than any other technical institution on our list, and the primary reason is career earnings for graduates (most of whom pursue careers in engineering fields). Compared to West Virginia Tech (the next lowest tech school, at #33), the starting salary for Louisiana Tech grads is nearly $3,000 lower; this figure compounds over time, as West Virginia Tech alumni who have been in the workforce for five to nine years outearn their Louisiana Tech counterparts by nearly $10,000.

    • Cost: $69,980
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $804,100
    • % Aid: 92%
    • Average Aid Amount: $7,463
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $837,700
  50. Rank
    49
    School

    University of Texas at Dallas

    Location
    Richardson, TX
    Tuition
    $96,800 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    800 West Campbell Road
    Richardson, TX 75080-3021
    (972) 883-2111

    Accreditation

    SACS/CC

    School Description

    The cost of a four-year degree at UT Dallas is nearly $5,000 lower than the University of Texas at Austin, but students who graduate from the latter school tend to earn much higher salaries. The median salary of software engineers who earn their degree in Austin, for example, is more than $10,000 higher than their Dallas counterparts. For this reason, a degree from the larger branch of the University of Texas earns graduates a better ROI than credentials obtained at the Dallas branch.

    • Cost: $96,800
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $803,000
    • % Aid: 81%
    • Average Aid Amount: $13,246
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $861,200
  51. Rank
    50
    School

    California State University – Chico

    Location
    Chico, CA
    Tuition
    $96,830 program total
    +

    Websites

    Address

    First and Normal Sts
    Chico, CA 95929-0150
    (530) 898-6116

    Accreditation

    WASC/SCUC

    School Description

    Our top 50 ROI list concludes with the last-ranked California State University, Cal State, Chico ― although it's worth noting that this school's ROI still surpasses that of nearly 400 other U.S. public universities (according to Payscale's data). Cal State, Chico's tuition is cheaper than any of the schools found in the University of California system ― but while the typical salary for new graduates is on par with those other institutions, the mid-career median salaries are considerably lower.

    • Cost: $96,830
    • 30 Year Net ROI: $798,700
    • % Aid: 49%
    • Average Aid Amount: $9,200
    • 30 Years ROI with Aid: $843,400

Information & Data

Ranking Methodology

Our dataset is based off of information collected by Payscale.com’s 2013 list of ROI rankings. The rankings were determined using Payscale’s employee surveys and they reflect the value of a school based upon average total costs, financial aid packages and the salary levels and employability of its graduates.

This is how each data variable is defined:

  • Cost: This cost represents the total expense of tuition and fees, room and board as well as the books and supplies in-state students can expect to spend to complete a four year degree at this institution. (Costs are based upon 2012 figures provided by the IPEDS.)
  • 30 Year Net ROI: This figure represents the amount of money earned by an individual over the course of 30 years minus the total cost of tuition at the time he or she graduated.
  • Percent of Students Receiving Financial Aid: This figure indicates the percentage of students enrolled at a particular school that receive loans, grants, scholarships, and other monetary rewards used to finance tuition, room and board, and other academic expenses.
  • Average Aid Amount: This number is calculated by tallying up the total amount of financial aid received by all students at a given school, and then dividing it by the number of students receiving aid.
  • 30 Years ROI with Aid: This figure is calculated the same way as the 30 Year Net ROI, except that the student’s net (not total) college costs are subtracted from his or her career earnings.

How to Interpret the Data

Some of the highest ranking schools may surprise you. That’s because more prestigious schools are often more expensive (possibly disproportionately expensive) and cannot offer the same return on each tuition dollar that a lower-cost school, like a technical college, might.

For instance, according to the data, SUNY’s Maritime College in the Bronx offers its students the highest ROI of any public school in the country. The survey found that the 30 year median salary of SUNY Maritime graduates is very close to the median salary for MIT grad — $1,586,000 compared to $1,606,000, respectively. But depending on your financial aid situation or your post-college plans, SUNY Maritime might offer you a better ROI. This year, the projected total cost of a bachelor’s degree from SUNY is only $90,530. Students enrolling at MIT this year can expect to pay the hefty sticker price of $215,000 for their four year degree.

It’s important to keep in mind that this list measures the ROI of a bachelor’s degree in terms of dollars and cents only. If you are not interested in choosing a career within the narrower professional scope for which a degree from SUNY Maritime or the Colorado School of Mines would prepare you, you shouldn’t choose your school based upon tuition and salary rates alone.

If you’re interested in pursuing a graduate degree, this survey will be less useful for you. This Payscale dataset only includes information on bachelor’s degree programs. Survey results from employees that hold Master’s degrees, an MBA, MD, JD, PhD or any other advanced degree were not included in this data.