Viewing College as an Investment
It used to be that picking a college was as simple as enrolling in the best school that you could get into and afford.
But in recent years "best" and "afford" have become increasingly subjective terms. While many still use a school's reputation to figure out which school is best, a growing number of prospective students want numbers in the form of potential future earnings to back up those claims. Meanwhile, student loans have made almost any school "affordable" for almost any student, at least up front. The problem is that students are often ending up in jobs that make paying back those loans impossible.
In other words, more students and parents are starting to view college as an investment, and not just a rite of passage for the typical American 18-year-old with average or better high school grades. But comparing one school to another isn't always easy, given the discrepancies between "sticker price," which is reported to the Department of Education and what students end up paying after grants and reductions.
Fortunately, PayScale has broken down the data and has ranked schools based on the return on investment they offer students.
The rankings use a 20-year-net return on investment to compare the earnings of graduates against those of people who only have a high school degree. The data is telling: the most expensive schools don't always produce the highest earners, but sometimes those "bargain" tuitions are covering up the fact that graduates don't recoup their investment when they start working.
What follows are capsule overviews of the Top 25 schools on Payscale's list. Keep in mind these are numbers for all graduates – what you study and what career you choose will swing the average ROI in one direction or another.