10 Public Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2022

Some colleges give you more bang for your buck. Check out these 10 public colleges with the best return on investment for students in 2022.

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Published on January 21, 2022 · Updated on March 11, 2022

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10 Public Colleges With the Best Return on Investment in 2022

College entails a significant investment of time and money. For this reason, it can help to plan out your education based at least partially on your institution's expected return on investment, or ROI.

ROI helps measure whether something is a good investment — in this case, attending a particular college. By looking at schools while considering their ROIs, you can try to avoid unnecessary financial burdens.

Here, we rank the best ROI colleges of 2022. But first, how do you determine what a good ROI looks like for college?

What Is a Good ROI for College?

Determining a good ROI for a college depends on several factors.

While a less expensive school may seem appealing, the tradeoff may not be worth it if its graduates routinely earn low salaries. Similarly, lower-ranking and unaccredited schools may boast cheaper tuition but fail to adequately prepare you for the job market.

Ideally, you should seek out schools with a tuition rate that matches your budget while also favoring schools that report high earnings among graduates — in both the short and long term.

You should have an easier time repaying any student loan debt if your degree prepares you for an in-demand, lucrative position.

The 10 Best ROI Colleges of 2022

Using data collected by Payscale, we've put together a list of 10 public colleges and universities (excluding service academies) that offer in-state students the highest return on their educational expenses.

These college ROI rankings are primarily based on two factors:

Subtracting the cost of attendance from the difference in earning power between college and high school grads yields the net ROI. All cost of attendance data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These costs equal the sum of expenses for tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies.

Note that grants, scholarships, and other merit- and need-based aid may reduce the cost of attendance for some students, thereby raising their 20-year net ROI.

1. SUNY Maritime College — Bronx, NY

As the name implies, SUNY Maritime College specializes in programs related to marine engineering, shipping, oceanic transportation, and other maritime industries. Many grads pursue careers as engineers, project and operations managers, and naval architects.

Maritime College's ROI ranks highest among all public universities thanks to the school's relatively low costs (around $25,000 per year) compared to graduates' incredibly high median midcareer salary of $164,100.


2. Colorado School of Mines — Golden, CO

Mechanical, civil, software, and electrical engineering are some of Colorado School of Mines' most popular majors. The school focuses primarily on mining technology, with an emphasis on applied science and environmental resource protection. As a result, many grads pursue careers in high-paying engineering and tech roles.

Mines graduates can expect to take home a starting salary of around $79,000. Later, graduates report an impressive midcareer salary of close to $149,000 per year.


3. California State University Maritime Academy — Vallejo, CA

Like SUNY Maritime College, Cal Maritime specializes in maritime education, offering programs in fields such as oceanography, marine engineering technology, marine transportation, and global studies and maritime affairs.

Graduates of this reputable CSU school earn average salaries of around $73,000 right out of college and close to $140,000 as midcareer professionals. Many of the top career paths for alumni include lucrative positions like operations manager and chief engineer.


4. Georgia Institute of Technology — Atlanta, GA

According to Payscale, the most common career sectors for Georgia Tech graduates are mainly concentrated in engineering, including software, mechanical, project, aerospace, and electrical engineering.

The average annual salary for Georgia Tech graduates is $89,000 ― roughly $26,000 less than the cost of a bachelor's degree. What's more, some grads make closer to $130,000 as engineers. For this reason, it's easy to see why Georgia Tech offers such a high ROI.


5. University of California, Berkeley — Berkeley, CA

Berkeley boasts a higher 20-year ROI than any other public school offering both liberal arts and STEM majors, likely because the leading career paths for alumni are concentrated in high-paying fields like engineering, data science, and project management.

Grads earn an impressive average base salary of $91,000 per year and a solid median starting salary of $79,200. The ROI for Berkeley is a little lower than some of the top schools on this list due to its higher price tag.


6. Massachusetts Maritime Academy — Buzzards Bay, MA

Massachusetts Maritime Academy specializes in education related to the maritime sector, offering degrees in fields like marine engineering, environmental protection, and international business. Many graduates go on to become port engineers, a job with an average annual salary near $100,000 — slightly less than the cost of a four-year degree from MMA.

Average salaries of other popular paths for alumni (namely project engineer, health and safety engineer, and project manager) range from $70,000-$95,000 a year. Recent grads can expect to earn around $73,000 as they work their way up to more lucrative roles.


7. Missouri University of Science and Technology — Rolla, MO

Missouri S&T's engineering programs have received lots of praise from academics, and student outcomes are one of the main reasons why.

The seven leading career paths for graduates are primarily concentrated in engineering, and all boast average salaries of at least $65,000. Missouri S&T also stands apart for its excellent financial aid: 97% of its students received grant or scholarship aid in 2019-20, according to NCES.


8. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology — Socorro, NM

At the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, students benefit from a relatively affordable cost of attendance combined with a solid average base salary for alumni. Top career paths for graduates include data science, software engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering — all high-paying fields.

What's more, NCES reported that 97% of NMT students received scholarship or grant aid in 2019-20. The average annual grant or scholarship aid amount per student was $7,889 — over the course of four years, that would cover more than one-third of the cost of a bachelor's degree at NMT.


9. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo — San Luis Obispo, CA

Cal Poly ranks among the finest tech institutes in the country. Cal Poly grads often pursue careers in fields such as engineering (including mechanical, software, electrical, and manufacturing engineering) and project management. Graduates often take home high average salaries, with many jobs paying at least $75,000 annually.


10. Maine Maritime Academy — Castine, ME

A small school nestled in the Northeast, Maine Maritime Academy — like many others on this list — specializes in maritime training and education. Graduates benefit from a high average base salary of $90,000 per year, which is just $20,000 less than the cost of a four-year degree from the institution.

Popular career paths for MMA grads include engineering and facilities and plant management — jobs that boast average salaries of over $80,000 a year. New graduates can expect to make a solid annual starting salary of around $71,000.


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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.

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