Top 10 “Return-On-Investment” Schools In the US

Everyone who attends college goes for one major reason: a promise of a future financial return.

The path is simple; attend college, major in a specific field, and go get a job in that major after graduation.

It’s so simple, yet it comes as no surprise that some schools have better ROIs for their students than other schools.

What do we mean by ROI?

Quite simply, return on investment, or the net income one makes in their career minus investment into the degree itself.

PayScale.com recently announced its top 10 “ROI” schools, and the results are rather surprising.

In the top 10, none of the schools are Ivy league programs. While some are household names, others are lesser known institutions at the national scale.

However, one thing is certain: these schools consistently produce students who are making an excellent income.

Although PayScale’s list does include schools with compulsory military service, we are outlining the top 10 schools that do not require military service upon graduation.

With that said, here are the Top 10 “ROI” schools.

10. Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)

photo by Jawed Karim. via Wikimedia Commons

The first school on the list is, unsurprisingly, one of the most renowned academics institutions in the world. For its 2020 list, US News ranked Stanford in the top 6 universities nationwide.

However, Stanford is the only top-10 university ranked school to make this list. 

Why is that?

One reason is that graduates of Stanford have unique access to the San Francisco Bay Area’s highest paying startups and companies. Just a few miles from Stanford are Facebook, Google, and other tech giants offering starting salaries in the six figures.

Additionally, Stanford is the most selective school in the country alongside Harvard, admitting only 5% of applicants. Because of this, the level of student who is at Stanford naturally is very high achieving.

The fact that 30 billionaires call themselves alumni of Stanford may also have something to do with their unusually high ROI.

NET ROI after 20 years (according to PayScale): $811,000


9. Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ)

photo by Jeffrey Vock Photography via Wikimedia Commons

Stevens is something of a hidden gem; those who don’t know the school don’t realize that the quality of faculty & education is on par with many of the other great technological institutions in the US, including CalTech and Georgia Tech.

For students who are fortunate to know the school and attend, their ROI is among the highest of all in the country.

One reason this may be is that Stevens, though in New Jersey, is literally across the river from Manhattan. Due to its proximity to the financial center of America, many Stevens students are hired in top jobs after graduation in the Big Apple.

Another is the focus on high-paying careers; technology and coding, two centerpieces of the Stevens experience, are naturally among the most employable majors in today’s tech-heavy landscape. Because of this, Stevens graduates are primed for incredible monetary success after graduation.

NET ROI after 20 years: $832,000


8. California State University Maritime Academy (Vallejo, CA)

Although California Maritime is associated with the military, no service obligation exists for students graduating from this program.

This CSU schools beats out every other California public school in terms of ROI, including UCLA, UC San Diego, and UC Santa Barbara.

So why does CSU Maritime have such a strong ROI track record?

Although no service obligation exists, many students do choose to participate in the military upon graduation, meaning they are provided immediate employment opportunity within months of obtaining a degree. Perhaps this is one reason why so many military-associated programs provide the best ROIs.

Another reason is that the school has many in-state students, and so the cost of the degree is less than a prestigious private school, so the “net” ROI is naturally better.

US News ranks the school as the #2 “regional west” school in 2020.

NET ROI after 20 years: $793,000 (out-of-state)

NET ROI after 20 years: $837,000 (in-state)

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