A First Try at ROI – Ranking 4500 colleges & universities by return on investment

  Today, we released a new report using data from the expanded College Scorecard to rank 4,500 colleges and universities by return on investment. A First Try at ROI: Ranking 500 Colleges finds that bachelor’s degrees from private colleges, on average, have higher returns on investment than degrees from public colleges 40 years after enrollment. Community colleges and many certificate programs have the highest returns in the short term, 10 years after enrollment, though returns from bachelor’s degrees eventually overtake those of most two-year credentials. 

Public colleges, where tuition is lower and students accumulate less debt, lead to better returns than private colleges at the 10-year horizon. In the long term, however, degrees from private nonprofit colleges provide the best returns, even though students take out twice as much in loans on average. A graduate of a public college has an average net economic gain of $765,000, compared to $838,000 for a graduate of a private college. 

While these findings hold true for many schools, there are notable exceptions. You can learn more about each of the 4,500 colleges and universities ranked by various ROI metrics by accessing a sortable table, along with the full report, at cew.georgetown.edu/CollegeROI.     Ten years after enrollment, the median net present value for all colleges is $107,000; measured at the 40-year horizon, that number rises to $723,000.  

Colleges that primarily award associate’s degrees have the highest short-term return, a median of $141,000 10 years after enrollment.     In the long term, the net economic gains for attending a private for-profit college are $551,000, compared to $838,000 for a private nonprofit college and $765,000 for a public college.   
The institutions with the lowest long-term economic value range from theological institutions to beauty schools to colleges specializing in the arts.    
Thank you for your continued interest in our work. 

Anthony P. Carnevale
Founder and Director

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