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PayScale’s 2015 College ROI Report: Will Your Degree Pay Off?


Student loan debt has more than quadrupled over the past 20 years, according to Pew Research Center. In 2012, the average loan total was $29,400, and seven out of 10 students graduated with debt. No wonder that many prospective students (and their parents) consider the return on their college investment before choosing a school or program. PayScale’s 2015 College ROI Report ranks the schools and majors whose graduates receive a high rate of return from attending — in other words, they earned back their tuition and fees, and then some, and then went on to earn much higher salaries than they would have without their degree.

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(Photo Credits: bensonk42/Flickr)

This year’s College ROI Report offers several ways to evaluate your educational options:

Do You Know What You're Worth?

  • Best Value: Want to see which schools offer the highest 20-year net ROI, together with the total four-year cost, graduation rate, and average loan amount? This is where to start. PayScale’s interactive report lets you adjust for financial aid and on- and off-campus housing, as well as seeing the annual ROI instead of the 20-year projection. One caveat here, for English majors and other non-science-focused students: schools with a high proportion of STEM graduates tend to crowd the top of the general list. That doesn’t mean that if you’re an artist, you should force yourself to love STEM, for the sake of your wallet. It does mean, however, that you might be more interested in…
  • Best Value by Major or Best Value by Career: If you already know what you want to be when you grow up — or at least, what you want to study on the way there — these rankings will help you sort out the programs and schools with the best ROI for your area of interest.
  • State: There are all sorts of reasons to stay close to home (or run to other side of the country). If you know where you want to live, this is where to start narrowing down your academic options.
  • School Type: Love sports, or arts, or business? Need a school that loves to party or one that’s totally sober? This is where to look.

Regardless of where you start your search for the best educational investment, the goal is the same: to find the major and school that will allow you to prepare for the career of your dreams — without a boatload of debt weighing you down along the way.

Tell Us What You Think

Where did your school fall on this list? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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What is the source of income data? survey only? Is there selection bias in reported data? It would be relatively easy to compare data set with university registration data to get a metric of representation. How does the data set deal with early retirement and passive income?

Bond investor
Bond investor

Did you adjust for cost-of-living at the graduates’ locations? A graduate of a university in a low cost-of-living state may have a better ROI even though their nominal salary after 20 years is below someone working in San Francisco or New York.

I also couldn’t find Hillsdale College, Michigan in the search function of the Michigan list of schools.


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