10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023

Investing four (or more) years and a ton of money into a college education should pay off. Here are 10 schools that can give you a solid return on your investment.
20 min read

Share this Article


  • Getting a degree doesn't guarantee you'll land a job that utilizes your education or even pays enough to cover your student loans.
  • That's why it's important to pick a college that can lead to a good return on investment (ROI).
  • By taking into account net costs, expected graduate earnings, and the time it'll take to recoup expenses, we've found 10 schools that offer the best ROI.

The "Is college worth it?" calculation has gotten trickier in recent years. On the one hand, the answer is still clearly yes — a college degree is a requirement for most entry-level jobs, and it tends to be even more crucial for getting promotions and climbing the ladder.

On the other hand, the investment (which includes about four years of your life and so much money) doesn't always pay off. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, about 40% of recent college grads ages 22 to 27 are currently in jobs that don't require a college degree.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to Start Your Journey?

Those numbers may make attending school seem risky — you don't want to end up trying to pay down college loans without a college paycheck, right?

Picking a college shouldn't feel like some kind of high-stakes gamble. That's where we come in — to help you figure out which schools can give you the absolute best return on your investment.

What Is a Good ROI for College?

There are a lot of factors to consider when calculating the potential ROI of a college:

  • Opportunity costs: If you spend four (or more) years focusing on school, that's four (or more) years you aren't focusing on other enterprises. This means you're potentially facing an extended period of lost wages, savings, and/or career progress.

    Pro tip: One way to minimize your opportunity costs is to pick a flexible and affordable online program that allows you to work and study at the same time.

  • Tuition costs: The less money you spend on school, the less debt you'll have to pay off later. Prioritize good schools — accredited institutions with solid student outcomes — that keep costs low and offer a lot of financial aid.

    Pro tip: Schools that offer more grant-based aid instead of loan-based aid are helping cut your costs a lot — instead of kicking the can down the road for you to pay back loans later (with interest), grants are essentially free money.

  • Student outcomes: You want to land a good job quickly, pay off your student loans, and move on with your life. This means, in some cases, relatively expensive schools that report high-earning graduates with strong job placement rates might be a better choice than schools with cheaper tuition but less impressive student outcomes.

Good news: We've already done all the homework for you by ranking schools with the very best returns on investment in 2023.

The 10 Best ROI Colleges of 2023

The sooner you can recoup the costs of your education, the quicker you'll start to see a positive return on your investment. To put together this ranking, we considered the cost of college attendance, average federal grant aid awarded, and future expected earnings to figure out which schools have the best payoff.

Here are 10 stand-out colleges that basically pay for themselves in no time:

#1 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Atlanta, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The Georgia Institute of Technology is a public research university in Atlanta, Georgia. It currently offers over 100 major fields of undergraduate study.

Georgia Tech is known for having some of the highest-ranked engineering and computing colleges in the nation, but it also offers degrees in business, design, liberal arts, and the sciences. Students also have access to excellent career services. 

The total undergraduate enrollment at Georgia Tech in 2021 was about 17,500 students. Students have access to many forms of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study programs, and co-op opportunities. 

Georgia Tech by the numbers: 

Average Undergraduate Tuition: $10,258/year
Average federal grant aid: $5,231.00/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $65,500/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$10,258
Out-of-state
$31,370
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
97%
Admission Rate
21%
Students Enrolled
36,302
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
49% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#2 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

Colorado School of Mines

  • Golden, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Colorado School of Mines is a public research university based in Golden, Colorado. The school offers over 70 degrees and programs.

The curriculum at Mines focuses on science and engineering as a path to solving the big problems this generation will face, including issues related to the climate, conservation, energy, and the environment. It has been recognized as one of the "brainiest colleges" and boasts outstanding student outcomes.

As of fall 2021, roughly 5,500 undergraduate students attended Mines. A 2020 annual report by the Mines Career Center found that 94% of recent graduates had positive outcomes within six months of graduation. Students also enjoy high starting salaries relative to the national average.

Mines by the numbers:

Average cost to attend: $16,650/year
Average federal grant aid: $4,663/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $69,200/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$16,650
Out-of-state
$37,350
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
92%
Admission Rate
53%
Students Enrolled
6,628
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#3 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

Golden Gate University

  • San Francisco, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Golden Gate University is a nonprofit university in San Francisco, California, that offers degrees in business, accounting, technology, law, and more. The institution currently offers 13 undergraduate degrees and certificates.

A self-described "university for professionals," GGU is a great choice for working adults looking to boost their careers. Students can choose from online, weekend, and evening classes that fit their busy schedules. GGU is known for its high-quality curriculum, small class sizes, and powerful alumni network.

The school is also committed to removing financial barriers to education. More than half of GGU students receive financial aid through scholarships, grants, and loans.

GGU by the numbers:

Average cost to attend: $15,840/year
Average federal grant aid: $5,268.99/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $66,100/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$15,840
Out-of-state
$15,840
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
2,432
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
67% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#4 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

Missouri University of Science and Technology

  • Rolla, MO
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Missouri University of Science and Technology is a public school in Rolla, Missouri. It currently offers 35 undergraduate degree programs and certificates. 

The school is known for its high-quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs. It also offers liberal arts and humanities degrees.

In the fall of 2021, Missouri S&T had about 6,000 undergraduate students. And 71% of students within the UM System received financial aid — including scholarships, grants, and loans.

Missouri S&T by the numbers:

Average cost to attend: $9,120/year
Average federal grant aid: $4,707/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $58,700/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$9,120
Out-of-state
$27,921
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
79%
Students Enrolled
8,088
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#5 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

Augusta University

  • Augusta, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Augusta University is a public research university near the Savannah River in Augusta, Georgia. The school offers nearly 100 undergraduate majors across 10 schools of study. 

Augusta University strives to be a designated center for medical, dental, and broader health sciences, training the next generation of medical researchers and innovators. Students can also pursue coursework in other areas, like business, cybersecurity, animation, kinesiology, and more.

As of 2021, Augusta University had roughly 4,300 full-time undergrads and 1,200 part-time undergraduate students. In 2020, 78% of students were scholarship recipients and 42% were Pell Grant recipients.

Augusta University by the numbers:

Average cost to attend: $6,892/year
Average federal grant aid: $4,956/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $54,100/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$6,892
Out-of-state
$22,270
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
72%
Admission Rate
76%
Students Enrolled
8,650
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
38% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

  • Browse programs
  • Discover matches
  • Request info
#6 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

California Polytechnic State University

  • San Luis Obispo, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

California Polytechnic State University is a large public university in San Luis Obispo, California. It currently offers 75 undergraduate degrees.

Cal Poly's academic philosophy is rooted in the idea of "learning by doing." As a result, it is widely recognized as one of the most innovative schools in the West. The school also boasts excellent student outcomes. Cal Poly reports that 95% of recent graduates were employed or attending graduate school within nine months of graduation.

The university offers various types of financial aid, including scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs.

Cal Poly by the numbers: 

Average cost to attend: $5,742/year
Average federal grant aid: $5,054/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $52,100/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$5,742
Out-of-state
$17,622
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
28%
Students Enrolled
21,426
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#7 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

  • Rapid City, SD
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is a public university based in the Black Hills of Rapid City, South Dakota. It offers 20 science and engineering majors and 29 minors. 

The school is known for its great value, quality research, and consistently strong student outcomes. It encourages undergraduates to "break things, build things, explore passions, and invent tomorrow."

Recent graduates of South Dakota Mines saw a 97% job placement rate in STEM fields. Financial aid programs at the school include scholarships, federal grants and loans, work-study options, and veteran/military assistance.

South Dakota Mines by the numbers:

Average cost to attend: $7,610/year
Average federal grant aid: $4,684/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $53,200/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$7,610
Out-of-state
$11,920
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
77%
Students Enrolled
2,525
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
#8 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

New Jersey Institute of Technology

  • Newark, NJ
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

New Jersey Institute of Technology is a public polytechnic university in Newark, New Jersey. It offers more than 120 degree programs through six schools and colleges.

NJIT is ranked among the best public national universities and is celebrated for its excellent honors college. It has also been recognized for its social impact and ability to help improve the upward mobility of lower-income students. 

NJIT also offers several kinds of financial aid to help offset the cost of college, including scholarships, grants, loans, work-study, co-ops, and internship programs, and paid research opportunities.

NJIT by the numbers:

Average cost to attend: $14,488/year
Average federal grant aid: $5,257/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $53,600/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$14,448
Out-of-state
$30,160
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
88%
Admission Rate
73%
Students Enrolled
11,518
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
31% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#9 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

Oregon Institute of Technology

  • Klamath Falls, OR
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

The Oregon Institute of Technology is a public, four-year university in Klamath Falls, Oregon. It offers over 50 bachelor of science and bachelor of applied science degrees.

As a polytechnic university, Oregon Tech offers specialized training in technology, engineering, healthcare, business, communications, and the sciences. With a cozy 16-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, students benefit from personalized attention in class.

Oregon Tech students have a competitive edge on the job market, with 96% of recent graduates finding employment or enrolling in graduate school within six months of graduation. Along the way, the school helps students and their families pay for college by offering scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study options.

Oregon Tech by the numbers:

Average cost to attend: $8,775/year
Average federal grant aid: $4,454/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $54,400/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$8,775
Out-of-state
$27,927
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
76%
Admission Rate
97%
Students Enrolled
5,313
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
#10 10 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2023 Best Value

Stanford University

  • Stanford, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

Stanford University is a private teaching and research university in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. It currently offers 69 major fields of undergraduate study.

With an incredibly low 5-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, Stanford is a great place to learn from some of the most impressive academics in the world. Twenty Nobel laureates are currently members of the Stanford community. 

The total enrollment at Stanford in 2021 was almost 17,000 students. The majority of students receive financial aid — many qualifying for free tuition, room, and board. As a result, 87% of the most recent graduating class has no student debt. 

Stanford by the numbers: 

Average cost to attend: $52,857/year
Average federal grant aid: $6,211/year
Average postgraduate salary (1-2 years out): $70,400/year

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,857
Out-of-state
$52,857
ROI Score

ROI Value Score: High

We’ve reviewed hundreds of schools to find the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

We compared how much you could earn in 10 years with a degree from this school versus only having a high school diploma. Then we compared that amount against school costs and financial aid opportunities. A higher return for your investment results in a higher score for this school.

Our Methodology
High
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
4%
Students Enrolled
17,249
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

Note: The tuition and federal grant aid data for our school rankings comes from the National Center for Education Statistics. Graduate earnings data is sourced from the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare Your School Options

View the most relevant schools for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to finding your college home.