Going to college in the U.S. is more expensive than ever. Students pay an average of $35,720 per year at a four-year college. That number is growing  at a rate of 6.8% per year, according to EducationData.org. By choosing an institution with a high return on investment (ROI), students and their parents can feel more confident their degree will carry weight in the job market.

Our list of the ten U.S. colleges with the highest ROI will help you choose a college that will earn back its cost over the long term.

Our Ranking Criteria

To put together our list, we used data from the 2019 report, A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 Colleges, by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. We only included four-year institutions offering bachelor’s degrees and ranked them according to their 40-year net present value (NPV). To learn more about 40-year NPV and our other ranking criteria, read the descriptions below:

40-year NPV

Net present value (NPV) is a way of representing the value of an investment, taking into account a range of factors such as inflation and earning potential. You can calculate a school’s NPV over a shorter time frame, such as 10, 20, or 30 years, but we have based our list on a 40-year NPV to provide the most long-term assessment of value.

For example, a public college may have a higher 10-year NPV than a private institution because of lower costs, but a lower 40-year NPV due to reduced earning potential.

Tuition and fees

It’s also important to consider a school’s tuition and fees, which include the cost of living and study materials. We’ve used tuition and fee data from the 2019 to 2020 school year.

Median debt and seven-year repayment rate

Median debt is the amount of student loan debt that most students graduate with, while the seven-year repayment rate is the percentage of graduates who have paid at least some of their student loan principal during that time frame. The higher the repayment rate, the more confident you can be that graduates are finding jobs with enough income to cover their loan payments.

Graduation rate

Finally, we have also included the school’s graduation rate. In this case, we relied on data from the Georgetown University study showing the percentage of full-time students who have completed a four-year degree within six years of their initial enrollment.

The 20 Colleges With the Highest ROI

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACHPHS) has been welcoming students since 1881. Its focus on healthcare, medicine, and bioscience puts it at the forefront of the industry, making it a good choice for long-term career prospects and high earning potential. ACPHS has a 40-year NPV of $2,722,000, the highest on our list, and a seven-year repayment rate of 95%. So you can feel good about paying back your debt and reaching a high earning potential in the long run. Bachelor’s programs include Pre-Med, Microbiology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Biomedical Technology.

  • 40-Year NPV: $2,722,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $36,745
  • Median Debt: $25,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 74%
  • Location: Albany, NY

Learn more


University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis

The University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis is another school that focuses on biomedical degrees, including Biochemistry and Neuroscience. Students can choose from multiple programs, such as the six-year Doctor of Pharmacy degree, or a seven-year program that includes a bachelor’s degree and a Pharmacy Degree. This school is one of a few to rank in the top tier for 15, 20, 30, and 40-year NPV.

  • 40-Year NPV: $2,714,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $41,069
  • Median Debt: $19,500
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 72%
  • Location: St. Louis, MO

Learn more


Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences trains students to be nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists, dentists, and more, with over 100 programs in all. Although its undergraduate fees vary widely, graduates can expect to leave with a median student loan debt of $25,000. MCPHS has a 40-year NPV of $2.4 million and a student loan repayment rate of 91% over seven years.

  • 40-Year NPV: $2,421,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $49,700
  • Median Debt: $25,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 76%
  • Location: Boston, MA

Learn more


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT is one of the most well-known research institutions in the country, so it’s no surprise it ranks highly on the list of colleges with the best ROI. With over 30 departments to choose from, students can pursue degrees in architecture, engineering, computing, and more. Although MIT’s undergraduate tuition is a relatively steep $53,790, students can expect to graduate with a median debt of $15,346 and a repayment rate of 94%.

  • 40-Year NPV: $2,273,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $53,790
  • Median Debt: $15,346
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 93%
  • Location: Cambridge, MA

Learn more


Stanford University

Stanford University is the only West Coast university on our list with a 40-year NPV of over $2 million. Stanford has around 7,000 students pursuing nearly 70 different majors, ranging from Aeronautics to Urban Studies. Although exact costs vary by degree, Stanford graduates can expect to leave with a median debt level of $10,874.

  • 40-Year NPV: $2,068,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $17,619
  • Median Debt: $10,874
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Location: Stanford, CA

Learn more


Maine Maritime Academy

The Maine Maritime Academy has a narrower focus than some of the other schools on our list, specializing in marine engineering, transportation, and other subjects related to oceanography. Because it’s so industry-focused, graduates can expect a 40-year NPV of over $2 million and a median debt of $27,000. This school is best for students who want a hands-on education using laboratories, simulators, and research vessels.

  • 40-Year NPV: $2,043,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: In-State: $39,162; Out-of-State: $53,790
  • Median Debt: $27,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 66%
  • Location: Castine, ME

Learn more


Babson College

Babson College provides a multi-disciplinary education, with over 25 concentrations to choose from, including Entrepreneurship and Global Business Management. Babson’s graduates can expect a starting salary of $62,399 and a 40-year NPV of $1,985,000. Undergraduate tuition and fees cost around $52,608, leaving students with a median debt of $24,875 when they graduate with a four-year degree.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,985,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $52,608
  • Median Debt: $24,875
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 94%
  • Graduation Rate: 91%
  • Location: Babson Park, MA

Learn more


Harvard University

With a 40-year NPV of $1,967,000, Harvard University is a highly-rated college with an ROI to match. Although the graduation rate is high at 97%, Harvard has a slightly lower seven-year repayment rate than similar institutions, only 76%. Still, despite its high tuition costs, students graduate with a median debt of $7,000. Its degree programs include Bioengineering, Neurosciences, International Relations, and more.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,967,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $73,800
  • Median Debt: $7,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 76%
  • Graduation Rate: 97%
  • Location: Cambridge, MA

Learn more


Georgetown University

Georgetown University is a research university in Washington, D.C., nearly as old as the U.S. itself. Areas of study include Advanced Biomedical Sciences, Business and Global Affairs, and Data Science. While your earning potential may vary depending on your course of study, Georgetown’s overall ROI is around $1.9 million over 40 years. It also has an impressive graduation rate of 94% and a seven-year repayment rate of 91%.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,950,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $38,819
  • Median Debt: $14,750
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 94%
  • Location: Washington, DC

Learn more


United States Merchant Marine Academy

If you enroll in a degree program at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, most of your tuition costs will be paid for by the federal government. The USMMA has a graduation rate of 78%, a seven-year repayment rate of 93%, and a 40-year NPV of $1.9 million. This school offers a good ROI if you plan to study marine engineering, transportation, or another related field, but it does require a service commitment after graduating.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,949,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $7,020
  • Median Debt: $6,500
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 78%
  • Location: Kings Point, NY

Learn more


University of the Sciences

The University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, PA, has over 100 laboratories spanning programs like Biochemistry, Public Health, and Environmental Science. Graduates can expect to leave with around $27,000 in student loan debt. USciences promises a fixed tuition rate so you know exactly what you’ll be spending on your four-year degree.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,928,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $33,300
  • Median Debt: $27,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 71%
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA

Learn more


Massachusetts Maritime Academy

The Massachusetts Maritime Academy offers programs in Marine Engineering, Marine Transportation, International Maritime Business, and more. MMA does not require you to join the Armed Forces after graduation but does offer training on the USTS Kennedy training ship. MMA has a 75% graduation rate and a 40-year NPV of $1,869,000, with different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,869,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: In-State: $23,052; Out-of-State: $38,759
  • Median Debt: $23,250
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 88%
  • Graduation Rate: 75%
  • Location: Buzzards Bay, MA

Learn more


Harvey Mudd College

Harvey Mudd College provides a Common Core curriculum in STEM subjects and the option to choose a major in Biology, Computer Science, and other related fields. Although tuition and fees can reach a steep $77,339, students graduate with a median debt of $21,254 and a 40-year NPV of over $1.8 million. HMC’s focus on science and engineering makes it a good choice for students in these fields.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,851,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $77,339
  • Median Debt: $21,254
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Location: Claremont, CA

Learn more


Stevens Institute of Technology

The Stevens Institute of Technology focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship, with most students required to produce a Senior Design Project as an undergraduate. The school has a 40-year NPV of $1,833,000 and a graduation rate of 83%. Students can enroll in one of the four schools and colleges that make up the institute, including the School of Business and the College of Arts and Letters.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,833,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $78,201
  • Median Debt: $26,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 93%
  • Graduation Rate: 83%
  • Location: Hoboken, NJ

Learn more


University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest learning institutions in the country, with a history dating back to 1740. This Ivy League university has a 40-year NPV of $1.8 million and a median debt of $12,500. Prospective students can choose from 99 majors in four schools, including the College of Arts & Sciences and the prestigious Wharton School of Business.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,832,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $57,770
  • Median Debt: $12,500
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 91%
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA

Learn more


California State University Maritime Academy

CSUM offers several degree programs for students who want to learn about Business Administration, Marine Transportation, and Oceanography. As a public university, it is a good choice for in-state students, who pay as little as $2,871 per semester. CSUM has a lower graduation rate than some of the other choices on our list, only 63%, but still provides a good long-term ROI with a 40-year NPV of $1.8 million.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,818,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $2,871 per semester
  • Median Debt: $20,500
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 84%
  • Graduation Rate: 63%
  • Location: Vallejo, CA

Learn more


California Institute of Technology

Caltech is a research institution with a focus on the sciences, ranging from Applied Physics to Bioengineering. With a 40-year NPV of $1.8 million, this school ranks highly for students pursuing a career in any of these fields. Caltech’s fees and tuition costs are relatively high for undergraduates, but 91% of students graduate within the expected timeframe and end up with a median debt of $11,500.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,810,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $74,199
  • Median Debt: $11,500
  • Graduation Rate: 91%
  • Location: Pasadena, CA

Learn more


Colorado School of Mines

The Colorado School of Mines offers a high ROI for students who want to learn about science and engineering. As a public research university, in-state residents pay less tuition, with a median debt level of $21,915 for all graduates. In addition to majors in Biochemistry, Computer Science, and Engineering, this is one of the only schools to offer a graduate program in Space Resources.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,794,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: Resident: $36,693; Non-Resident: $57,393
  • Median Debt: $21,915
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 90%
  • Graduation Rate: 77%
  • Location: Golden, CO

Learn more


Bentley University

Bentley University is a business school that offers a wide range of majors, from Finance to Public Policy. With a 90% graduation rate and 95% repayment rate, students can look forward to strong career prospects and a 40-year NPV of $1,786,000. Bentley also has opportunities for internships, corporate partnerships, and service-learning projects to provide students with hands-on experience.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,786,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $51,830
  • Median Debt: $25,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 90%
  • Location: Waltham, MA

Learn more


Yale University

Yale University’s price tag is on the higher end, but it boasts an impressive graduation rate of 98% and a seven-year repayment rate of 92%. Undergraduates can choose from a wide range of majors in over 100 departments, including Economics, Linguistics, and Physics. While Yale’s exact ROI may vary depending on the degree, it has an overall NPV of $1,777,000 over 40 years.

  • 40-Year NPV: $1,777,000
  • Tuition and Fees for 2019-2020: $72,100
  • Median Debt: $12,000
  • 7-Year Repayment Rate: 92%
  • Graduation Rate: 98%
  • Location: New Haven, CT

Learn more


Why Should You Care About Your College’s ROI?

There are plenty of reasons to attend college, from pursuing a field of study you are passionate about to simply exploring new perspectives and ideas. Your choice of school can have an impact on your earning potential, how much student loan debt you will graduate with, and how quickly you will be able to pay it off.

By considering a school’s ROI, you can get a more realistic sense of how your degree will impact your finances in the long run. The higher the ROI, the more you can expect to earn in your career relative to what you spent on your degree. You may be able to pay your student loans off faster than if you went to a school with a lower ROI.

That said, not everyone should choose a college based on its 40-year NPV. If you are enrolling in college later in life, for example, you may want to choose a program that will boost your career prospects more quickly.

ROI is not everything, but it is an important metric to consider, along with other factors such as the seven-year repayment rate and graduation rate.