BEST RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Return on Investment in college education is often a matter of personal preference. What is considered “worthy” by one student may not be as important to the next. In short, “worthy” is hard to measure, says Jeongeun Kim, associate professor of higher education at Arizona State University.
If job outcomes are a students’ preferred ROI indicator, then the hefty price tag at Ivy League and other name brand schools might be worth the investment.
“A body of literature has examined the association between institutional prestige and occupational outcomes. So far, evidence suggests that individuals attending ‘name brand’ schools tend to have more prestigious jobs and higher levels of salaries,” Kim says. “Yet, some generational comparisons reported that the benefit of attending a prestigious institution has diminished over time or is more applicable to students in particular fields.
“While students at Ivy League schools tend to pay a higher level of net tuition even after a high level of institutional financial aid, compared to their peers at public universities (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2022), there might be still benefits coming from attending Ivy League and other name-brand schools, such as prestige, social and cultural capital coming from networking and experiences, and occupational outcomes. These benefits might be even more significant for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”
Overall, state colleges and universities will provide the best return on investment for the largest majority of students. But, community colleges are also great resources that aren’t often mentioned in the conversation, says Cecilia Rios Aguilar, professor of education and department chair at University of California, Los Angeles.
“First, it is important to remember that the benefits of attending college are not just enjoyed by individuals (in terms of higher income profile among other benefits) but also by the entire society. Community colleges provide an excellent return on investment. They are the pillar of American higher education,” she says.
“If students are interested in learning about ROIs, then they should consider looking at labor market data to learn which fields of study lead to jobs that have sustainable growth, good starting salaries, and job benefits. Then you should look into which colleges provide pathways to careers and jobs in these fields.”
See the chart below for a list of Wallet Hub’s top schools (Nos. 31-60) and how they compare on several other metrics.
Poets&Quants also looked more closely at how schools stack up against each other on Student Selectivity, Cost and Financing, Faculty Resource, and Education and Career Outcomes. You can see those comparisons on the following pages. See the full rankings here.
NEXT PAGE: Best Colleges For Cost & Financing
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