Colleges Worth the Cost … And Some That Are Not

July 27, 2010
Terri Cullen

Was your undergraduate degree worth the cost? Pay-information website PayScale ranked 852 colleges and universities by their annual return on investment, to show parents and students what they get back for the investment they make in higher learning.

Pay-information website PayScale Inc., recently ranked 852 colleges and universities by their return on investment (ROI) -- using its own calculations designed to show parents and students what they get back for the investment they make in higher learning.

With the average cost of a four-year degree at a public college now at $7,020 per year (and $26,273 per year for a private school), according to the College Board, you can glean which universities give you the biggest return on your investment -- and which diplomas may not be worth the time and effort.

In PayScale’s study, the average cost for all schools was $124,328, while the 30-year net return on that investment (again, for all schools) was $393,574. The average annual net return on investment for all schools was 9 percent. Still, PayScale found that graduates of some institutions would be hard-pressed to make up the total cost of just four years of tuition over the course of their 30-year careers.

Here are the Top 10 schools that give you the biggest return on your investment, according to PayScale:

For methodology, click here.

Only three the eight Ivy League schools failed to make the Top 10: Columbia University (ranked # 19 overall); Brown University (ranked # 24); and Cornell University (ranked #28).

High Cost, Low ReturnUsing PayScale’s database, Businessweek magazine ranked the top schools with the highest tuition and lowest return on investment. (Note that all were private schools.)

University

Average Cost (2009)

30-Year ROI

Annual ROI

Willamette University,

Salem, Ore.

$197,000

$153,000

6.3%

Franklin Pierce University,

Rindge, N.H.

$181,700

$167,000

6.6%

Eckerd College,

St. Petersburg, Fla.

$195,700

$174,000

6.5%

Lesley University, Cambridge, Mass.

$191,000

$195,000

6.8%

Long Island University, Brookville/Brooklyn, N.Y.

$180,700

$200,000

6.9%

Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, Pa.

$180,700

$218,000

7.1%

Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla.

$223,100

$246,000

6.9%

Sacred Heart University,

Fairfield, Conn.

$192,000

$246,000

7.2%

Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pa.

$179,400

$263,400

7.5%

Whittier College, Whittier, Calif.

$199,100

$271,000

7.3%

Want to see how your school ranked? Check out PayScale’s complete ROI list here.