These Colleges Have the Highest Return on Investment

What's the real value of a private education?

college return on investment
Private college might actually be worth it.
Virojt Changyencham/Getty
By Kayla Kibbe / November 15, 2019 6:00 am

Can the value of a college education really be quantified in dollars? While the very institutions that have slapped an exorbitant price tag on that product would probably argue the experience is worth more than the mere dollar-by-dollar return on investment numbers could ever quantify, a recent study by researchers at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has attempted to calculate the value of higher education based on precisely those metrics.

Published Thursday, the study used newly released federal data to try to calculate return on investment for thousands of colleges across the country in an attempt to answer the increasingly pressing question, is college worth it?

For some elite universities, the answer seems to be yes. The study found that Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University are all among the top 10 colleges with the best long-term net economic gain, proving that for many students, the power and privilege tied to a top-tier school pays off down the line.

However, the top 3 schools on the list — Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences — are all somewhat lesser-known schools specializing in pharmacy and health sciences. The study found that 40 years on, graduates from these institutions amassed an average net economic gain of $2,722,000, $2,714,000 and $2,421,000, respectively.

Perhaps surprisingly, the study ultimately found that even with the rising costs of private education placing an increasing debt burden on students, private schools still ranked overwhelmingly higher than public institutions when it came to longterm return on investment. Only two public universities made it into the top 10, and both, significantly, are maritime academies.

“Return on investment is huge,” William J. Brennan, president of Maine Maritime Academy, told the Washington Post. Brennan added that the school — which came in at number 6, outranking both Harvard and Georgetown — also consistently places at least 90 percent of graduates in their chosen career fields within 90 days. “They’re looking to prepare themselves for a career that will include hard work,” he said. “The value of this education is huge.”

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