No one will argue that a college education is expensive. Aside from tuition costs, students also need to shoulder expenses for books, board and lodging, food, and transportation. That’s why online education statistics show the increasing popularity of online higher education. Families are looking for more affordable alternatives. So, grades are not the only numbers to consider. You should also look into which institutions will have the highest potential returns for your investment.
This article will cover the top 50 US colleges that pay off the most in 2022, as we account for the average tuition fees, median starting salaries of graduates, and what each university is known for. By perusing the list, students can make informed decisions on which college or university they should enter. Additionally, they and their families can prepare ample budgets for their chosen institution since they could approximate their future scholastic expenses.
Over the years, the median salaries of households in the United States have progressively increased and, unfortunately, the same can be said for tuition fees of American colleges and universities. The typical household makes around $68,703 annually (Semega, Kollar, Shrider, Creamer, 2020) while tuition fees are at $23,835 on average (National Center for Education Statistics, 2020).
Picking between a public school and a private institution makes a difference financially, as the typical tuition fee of a public university is $17,797 and a private one at $42,681 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2020). However, this does not mean that public institutions are outright the more ideal choices. Private institutions, in the long run, merit higher payoffs (Hess, 2019), especially if we are to concentrate on the top tier universities (Hess, 2020).
The median salary of US graduates in their first five years of employment is $50,944 as of 2018 (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2019). This figure is much smaller compared to the starting salaries yielded by the top colleges and universities, as you would see later on the list, particularly on the side of private universities and colleges.
It is important to note, however, that selecting a university does not always center on a game of costs. Other factors such as graduation rates, employability rates, and the prestige of an institution can also affect the scale and number of professional opportunities a learner is poised to receive. But knowing the colleges and universities with “workable” fees can be leveraged to shortlist options or treated as a deciding factor when faced with equally viable institutions.
Below, we have listed 50 of the US colleges and universities that pay off the most based on their potential median starting salary. The median starting salaries used on the lists pertain to the average salary within the first five years of employment, as mentioned in the 2020 College Salary Report of Payscale.
Furthermore, we excluded national defense institutions like the U.S. Naval Academy or the U.S. Military Academy since the expenses and financial benefits from military service are different from those of occupations in traditional higher education institutions. For students with limited budgets, we recommend going to our cost comparison of community colleges by state.
Named after renowned American physician Samuel Merritt, Samuel Merritt University (SMU) is one of the biggest institutions for nurse training in the United States and the foremost provider of occupational therapists, physical therapists, podiatric physicians, and physician assistants in California. As such, it specializes in health sciences and welcomes over 760 undergraduates, 730 postgraduates, and 500 doctoral students.
SMU features a low student-to-teacher ratio (8:1) that influences its high graduate employability rate (98%). Meanwhile, it also provides plenty of scholarships, with around 86% of the student body receiving financial aid from the school.
Known for the strength of its science and engineering programs, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is one of the top private technological universities in the United States. Many of its academic programs are geared toward pure and applied sciences, which are served under six academic divisions. The school offers 28 undergraduate and 30 graduate programs, instructed with an impressive 3:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Meanwhile, Caltech’s most popular courses include engineering, computer science, physical sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, and mathematics.
Caltech is currently associated with 76 Nobel laureates, six Turing Awards, and four Fields Medal winners.
Located in California, Harvey Mudd College (HMC) is part of the Claremont Colleges network, as it shares resources with the other constituents. This private school is known for its strong engineering and liberal arts programs and notable instruction from its award-winning faculty. HMC is organized into seven departments that offer 12 undergraduate and graduate programs, of which four are interdisciplinary. Its most popular courses include interdisciplinary studies, engineering, computer science, mathematics, and physical sciences.
HMC opens its doors to more than 890 students and 101 faculty members, yielding a student-to-teacher ratio of 8:1, which fosters personalized learning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of the world’s leading and most prestigious universities, known for its academic strength, numerous scientific contributions, and producing a large number of notable alumni. Research at MIT is instrumental to the development of various knowledge areas, including modern science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In addition, this private school is associated with 96 Nobel laureates, eight Fields Medal winners, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 26 Turing Award winners, and 80 Marshall Scholars.
MIT is organized into six schools and colleges, which carry 30 departments that offer a large number of programs across all levels. Its most popular courses include computer science, mathematics, mechanical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, and physics. The university sports a remarkable 3:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Taking its name from notable American surgeon Charles Drew, Charles R. Drew University of Science and Medicine (CDU) is a private, community-founded, non-profit university that is known for its inclusiveness and progressive stance on social justice and health equity. The school devotes a portion of its research to addressing health disparities, with its high-priority studies dedicated to training, education, and treatments for serious illnesses like cancer, HIV, and diabetes.
CDU is organized into three colleges that are centered on nursing, medicine, and science and health, offering 20 academic programs across all levels. Its popular courses include biomedical and biological sciences and courses related to healthcare professions. In addition, the school maintains a low 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Stanford University is one of the world’s top universities and among the top fundraising higher education institutions in the United States. It is also known for the numerous awards bestowed on its alumni and faculty. Associated with Stanford are 84 Nobel laureates, eight Fields Medal winners, 28 Turing Award recipients, and 270 Olympic medals. Moreover, the private school has produced 74 billionaires, one U.S. president, and 17 astronauts.
Stanford is divided into seven schools that offer over 65 undergraduate and 90 graduate fields of study, with the most popular courses being computer science, engineering, social sciences, interdisciplinary courses, and mathematics. It maintains a student-to-teacher ratio of 5:1, as it promotes personalized learning.
Located in Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University is one of the world’s leading higher education institutions for computer science, information technology, artificial intelligence, and engineering. It is organized into seven schools and colleges and offers 54 academic programs and 41 interdisciplinary programs across all levels. Meanwhile, research at Carnegie Mellon is conducted in over 100 institutes, covering a diverse range of subjects.
The private university is affiliated with 20 Nobel laureates, 10 Academy Award winners, 127 Emmy Award winners, and 13 Turing Award recipients. Currently, it is attended by over 14,700 learners and 1,400 faculty members.
Webb Institute is a private school known for providing full-tuition scholarships to Americans and permanent residents in the U.S. and conferring dual degrees in marine engineering and naval architecture to all graduates. Given its industry ties and comprehensive programs, it maintains a 100% job placement rate while incoming learners complete their studies 85% of the time.
Webb admits an undergraduate batch of over 90 students and around 10 academic staff. Students are treated to innovative learning environments, including a ship model basin, a machine shop, a carpentry shop, and an engineering lab.
Harvard Univesity is one of the world’s most prestigious universities and the oldest higher education institution in the U.S. It is also one of the world’s wealthiest, with its endowment in 2020 amounting to $41.9 billion, and carries the biggest academic library, housing more than 20.4 million volumes. In addition, Harvard is associated with the most Nobel laureates (161) and recipients of the Fields Medal (18). Furthermore, the university has produced the most billionaires (188) while eight U.S. presidents belong to its alumni list.
Harvard is organized into 11 faculties and 15 schools, offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs. It welcomes more than 20,970 students and 2,400 teaching staff. Its most popular courses include biological sciences, social sciences, computer science, mathematics, and history.
Princeton University is one of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. and the fourth-oldest in the country, founded in 1746. An Ivy League school, it is known for its exemplary instruction and academic programs, high research activity, and its long list of distinguished alumni. Princeton is affiliated with 69 Nobel laureates, 14 Turing Award winners, and 15 Fields Medalists. On top of that, the university has produced numerous billionaires, two U.S. presidents, and a dozen justices of the Supreme Court.
Princeton is divided into 36 departments, offering 55 undergraduate, 18 graduate, and 33 doctoral programs. It also maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1, which allows it to provide personalized learning. The school’s most popular courses include social sciences, computer science, biological and biomedical sciences, public administration, and engineering.
Established in 1881, the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS) is a private, independent college that specializes in health-related programs. It offers eight bachelor’s programs, six graduate programs, and a doctorate pharmacy program. The school’s most popular courses include biomedical sciences, biological sciences, and programs centered on health professions.
ACPHS dedicates a portion of its efforts to serving regional communities through healthcare research and the establishment of student-run pharmacies in locations that are low on supply. The university has also partnered with numerous civic groups, such as the American Red Cross and the American Cancer Society, to boost its capacity and competencies.
Based in Indiana, the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology is one of the leading engineering higher education institutions in the U.S., known for its academic programs in engineering, math, science, and technology. The private school is organized into 14 departments that furnish 26 undergraduate majors, 42 minors, and several graduate courses.
Rose-Hulman boasts a high career placement rate, at over 98%, thanks to its integrated career services and the trio of large job fairs it organizes each year. Research is also introduced early into the curriculum, allowing younger students to take part in projects alongside professional researchers and industry experts.
Stevens Institute of Technology was founded in 1870, making it one of the oldest technological higher education institutions in the U.S. This private institute is organized into one college and three schools, furnishing 35 undergraduate, 58 graduate, and 22 doctoral programs. The most popular programs at Stevens include business administration, computer science, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and computer engineering.
Stevens welcomes more than 2,800 undergraduates and 3,200 postgraduate students. It is also affiliated with two Nobel laureates.
Founded in 1701, Yale University is the third-oldest higher education institution in the U.S. It is one of the leading universities in the country and a member of the Ivy League. It is known for its exemplary academic programs and research as well as its large number of distinguished alumni, including five U.S. presidents, 252 Rhodes Scholars, 78 MacArthur Fellows, five Fields Medalists, and 122 Marshall Scholars. It is also affiliated with 65 Nobel laureates.
Yale is organized into 14 schools that offer a large number of undergraduate and postgraduate programs, spanning a wide variety of disciplines. Its most popular courses include psychology, biological sciences, engineering, history, mathematics, and social sciences.
Established in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the country’s oldest universities and a member of the Ivy League. Founded by American polymath Benjamin Franklin, the school has produced numerous politicians, including 32 senators, 46 governors, and three Supreme Court justices. UPenn is organized into four undergraduate and a dozen graduate schools, offering a large number of programs. It also maintains a low student-to-teacher ratio at 6:1, which is conducive to personalized learning.
UPenn is associated with 64 billionaires, 36 Nobel laureates, 16 Pulitzer Prize winners, 15 Marshall Scholars, and 29 Rhodes Scholars.
The Colorado School of Mines (Mines) is one of the top universities for mining and mineral engineering in the world and is among the leading public universities in Colorado. It also introduced the first graduate program in space resources in the world. The university has been recognized for its programs in energy, engineering, and the environment.
Academically, Mines is organized into 20 departments that offer 17 undergraduate and 54 graduate programs. Its most highly regarded courses include mineral and mining engineering, petroleum engineering, earth and marine sciences, materials sciences, environmental studies, and chemical engineering. The university admits more than 5,100 undergraduates and 1,400 postgraduate students.
Established in 1865, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is one of the country’s oldest engineering and technology universities. Unique to the private school is its academic calendar composed of seven-week terms instead of semesters as well as its letter grading system. WPI is organized into four schools and 17 departments, offering 21 programs. Its most popular courses include computer science, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and robotics.
WPI welcomes more than 4,100 undergraduates, 1,900 postgraduates, and an academic staff of over 470. Meanwhile, it conducts its research in 12 institutes and centers, covering five knowledge areas, namely robotics, materials and manufacturing, cybersecurity, health, and learning sciences.
Founded in 1754, Columbia University is the oldest university in New York and one of the oldest in the country. An Ivy League school, it receives one of the highest university endowments domestically and has made numerous pioneering scientific contributions to the country, such as the first nuclear pile and the first nuclear fission reaction. Columbia is organized into 20 schools and offers 383 areas of study. Its most popular courses include engineering, social sciences, visual and performing arts, computer science, and biological sciences.
Columbia is associated with 18 Nobel laureates, 30 MacArthur Foundation Award recipients, 43 National Academy of Sciences Award winners, and 143 recipients of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Award.
Founded in 1874, the State University of New York Maritime College (SUNY Maritime College) is the oldest maritime academy in the U.S. Although graduates are not obligated to join the military, all students have the option to take preparatory classes, alongside their academics, for securing a professional license as a U.S. Merchant Marine. In addition, the university’s Reserve Officer’s Training Corps program comes as a preparatory class for entering the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps.
SUNY Maritime College is organized into seven academic departments that focus on naval science, engineering, humanities, marine transportation, maritime technology and operations, science, and global business and transportation. It offers 14 undergraduate and graduate programs as well as four U.S. Coast Guard Licensure programs.
The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) is one of the more prominent universities in the country, known for its strong engineering and computer science programs as well as its popular athletics team, the Yellow Jackets. It has also produced a U.S. president and a large number of politicians, athletes, and astronauts. In terms of academics, Georgia Tech comprises six colleges and 28 schools that specialize in engineering, business, liberal arts, sciences, design, and computing. Its most popular courses include engineering, computer science, business management, physical sciences, and biological and biomedical sciences.
Georgia Tech welcomes more than 15,300 undergraduates, 20,300 postgraduates, and 1,700 educators. It was established in 1885 and has satellite campuses in France, China, Ireland, and Singapore.
Founded in 1769, Dartmouth College is an Ivy League school and one of the oldest higher education institutions in the U.S. It is divided into 40 departments and interdisciplinary programs, offering 57 majors in various disciplines. The school’s most popular courses include engineering, social sciences, biological sciences, computer science, and mathematics.
Dartmouth is also known for its high research activity, conducted in its over 50 centers and institutes, which cover a broad range of interdisciplinary areas, such as business, digital strategies, social brain sciences, and biomedical engineering. It is home to more than 6,600 students and 940 teaching staff.
Based in North Carolina, Duke University is a prestigious research university best known for its high endowment, selectivity in admissions, and strong academic programs. It is organized into 10 schools and colleges, as it offers about 50 majors, 52 minors, and 24 certificate programs. The school’s most popular courses include computer science, economics, public policy, biology, and psychology.
Duke is associated with 15 Nobel laureates, 14 billionaires, one U.S. President, 50 Rhodes Scholars, and three Turing Award winners. The private university is also home to a nationally competitive athletics program, with its team, the Blue Devils, competing at NCAA Division I events.
Established in 1824, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the US’ oldest technical research university and has one of the most powerful university-based supercomputers. It is divided into six schools with 37 departments, offering more than 145 academic programs for all levels. Included in its list of most notable programs are computing, business management, engineering, liberal arts, design, and information technology.
The private school is associated with a Nobel laureate, eight Fullbright Scholars, five National Medal of Science awardees, and six National Medal of Technology recipients. Research is conducted in Rensselaer’s 32 centers and institutes, centered on five multidisciplinary areas, which include energy, nanotechnology, biotechnology, media, and computational science.
Cornell University is one of the leading universities in the United States and among the most prestigious higher education institutions in Ithaca, New York. An Ivy League school, it is known for its high research output, strong academic programs, and the caliber of its alumni. Cornell, as of 2020, is affiliated with 35 billionaires, 50 Nobel laureates, 34 Marshall Scholars, 29 Truman Scholars, 33 Rhodes Scholars, and 55 Olympic medals.
The university is divided into 15 colleges and schools and 100 academic departments, offering 80 undergraduate majors, over 120 minors, and 102 graduate programs. Its most prominent courses include veterinary science, agriculture, biological sciences, hospitality and leisure management, statistics, English literature, and computer science. It also has a sports team that competes in the NCAA Division I.
Founded in 1868, the University of California-Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is one of the world’s top universities, the oldest land grant university in California, and the oldest University of California campus. The school is associated with numerous awards in various fields, including 110 Nobel Prizes, 14 Fields Medals, 25 Turing Awards, 30 Pulitzer Prizes, and 19 Academy Award trophies. In addition, it has produced 25 living billionaires and seven heads of state. Meanwhile, in athletics, the UC Berkeley Golden Bears has picked up 97 national titles while students of the university have snagged 207 Olympic medals.
UC Berkeley is divided into 14 schools and colleges that offer more than 350 undergraduate and graduate programs. Its most popular courses include engineering, computer science, biological and biomedical sciences, and interdisciplinary studies. Freshmen go on to continue their studies at the university 97% of the time.
Located in Texas, Rice University is known for its high research output and strong materials sciences and applied sciences programs. As such, it is classified as an R1 Doctoral University and is a member of prominent associations like the Association of American Universities and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. The private university, as of 2020, is affiliated with two Nobel laureates, over 24 Marshall Scholars, and 12 Rhodes Scholars. In addition, it has produced numerous politicians, space scientists, and astronauts.
Rice is divided into 12 colleges and eight academic schools, attended by more than 7,200 students and full-time teaching staff. Its most highly regarded courses include chemical engineering, chemistry, materials sciences, physics, architecture, and philosophy.
Based in Massachusetts, Babson College is a private business school known for the strength of its undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs. It is organized into 10 academic divisions, focused on disciplines like entrepreneurship, finance, management, marketing, and humanities.
Currently, Babson admits over 2,300 undergraduates and around 1,000 postgraduates, coming from over 80 countries. In addition, the college is engaged in a significant number of global research projects and collaborates with organizations and universities from all over the world.
Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is one of the leading liberal arts colleges in the U.S., specializing in economics, government, public affairs, international relations, and finance. It is organized into 12 departments, offering 32 majors and 11 academic sequences. The private school is known for being selective as well as its courses in economics, political science, government, psychology, and international relations.
CMC welcomes over 1,300 students and 160 teaching staff, bearing an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio. It also has 11 research centers and institutes. CMC is a member of the association of Claremont Colleges.
Run by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Loma Linda University (LLU) is a private health sciences university in California known for its courses on clinical science, surgery, and neuroscience. It is organized into six hospitals and eight schools centered on disciplines like medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, religion, and public health. The school offers over 100 academic programs and conducts studies through its 2,000 researchers.
LLU opens its doors to more than 4,400 students and 1,000 employees. It is associated with significant discoveries like performing the world’s first infant heart transplant, the first university-based proton accelerator for the treatment of cancer, and notable pain-control solutions in dentistry.
The Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) is one of Portland’s largest employers with a workforce of over 18,400. It is also known for its pioneering medical research on the treatment of cancer, creation of an artificial heart valve, development of embryonic cells, eye treatments, and a potential vaccine for HIV. Academically, OHSU is composed of five schools and colleges that focus on medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, and public health. It offers 66 programs for undergraduate and graduate studies.
OHSU opens its doors to more than 4,700 students and 3,100 faculty members. It regularly engages in community service as it is responsible for over 200 health programs in Oregon.
The State University of New York Downstate Health Sciences University (SUNY Downstate) is one of Brooklyn’s biggest employers and has produced the most physicians working in New York City. In addition, many of its graduates have gone on to become instructors in U.S.-based medical schools. SUNY Downstate is organized into five colleges and schools, covering disciplines like medicine, nursing, public health, and health professions that offer over 20 academic programs.
SUNY Downstate opens its doors to more than 1,600 postgraduates and 200 undergraduates, over 1,000 of whom are residents. It is also home to nine research centers and major labs whose studies are centered on pathology, cell biology, physiology, and pharmacology.
Based in the Texas Medical Center, the Univerity of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) is the medical arm of the University of Texas system as its research and academic programs delve into subjects like biomedical sciences, public health, nursing, dentistry, and biomedical informatics. It is organized into six schools that offer 45 academic programs, most of which are at the graduate level. Its highly regarded programs include healthcare management, public health, and nursing-anesthesia.
UTHealth has over 5,200 students and 2,000 teaching staff. It houses over 50 research centers and institutes and provides several modes of accommodation for students.
The Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is known for the competency of its engineering school and for having sophisticated training and research environments, such as a nuclear reactor, experimental mine, and an electromagnetic compatibility laboratory. Its 284-acre campus has a rural setting, characterized by elaborate art installations, like the Millenium Arch and a replica of the Stonehenge, and a housing unit powered by solar energy.
Missouri S&T is organized into two colleges that offer around 99 academic programs across 40 areas of study, including engineering, business, computer science, liberal arts, and humanities. It welcomes over 6,400 undergraduates, 1,600 postgraduates, and 370 teaching staff.
The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SD Mines) is known for its science and engineering programs, historic location, and the internship opportunities it provided. Around an hour away from the school’s 118-acre campus are Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. Meanwhile, students can go hiking, kayaking, and ATVing, among many other outdoor adventures near the school, during their free time.
SD Mines is organized into 13 academic departments that offer 22 undergraduate, 15 graduate, and nine doctoral programs. In addition, the school offers three signature programs that center on mining, pre-health, and multidisciplinary projects.
Established in 1891, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Mass Maritime) is one of the oldest state maritime schools in the country and is known for using a former commercial freighter, the TS Kennedy, as a training vessel. It is organized into 16 departments that offer seven undergraduate and four graduate programs. Students enrolled in courses like marine transportation and marine engineering are required to undergo four “sea terms,” which will have them join maritime voyages aboard commercial sea vessels for around 52 days.
Mass Maritime opens its doors to more than 1,700 undergraduate cadets and 330 postgraduate students. It also has an athletics team, the Buccaneers, that participates in NCAA Division III events.
Part of the California State University System, the California State University Maritime Academy (Cal Maritime) is the only maritime school on the country’s West Coast. It is known for leveraging an actual ocean survey class ship, the TS Golden Bear, for training. The academy is organized into three schools, covering maritime studies, engineering, and letters and sciences, and nine departments. Students can enroll in seven undergraduate majors, seven minors, and one graduate program.
Cal Maritime’s campus spans 92 acres and welcomes more than 900 learners. It offers a picturesque view of San Francisco Bay while providing plenty of options for student accommodation.
Established in 1885, the Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech) is the oldest higher education institution in Upper Michigan. It is divided into seven colleges that cover subjects like engineering, technology, science, and mathematics. The university offers over 125 undergraduate and graduate programs, with the most highly regarded courses being environmental engineering, materials engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, and electrical engineering.
Research at Michigan Tech is conducted in its 18 centers and institutes, delving into 12 key areas such as ecology, atmospheric and space sciences, life sciences, health, robotics, and computation. Meanwhile, its classes are attended by more than 7,200 students and 470 academic staff.
The University of Virginia (UVA) is one of the leading public universities in the country and the world. Recognized as a Public Ivy, it is known for its high research activity, quality of instruction, and impressive academic programs. In addition, its 1,135-acre campus is home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site while its sports team, the Cavaliers, has bagged 20 NCAA championships in various sports. The university was also founded by notable American statesman Thomas Jefferson in 1819.
Academically, UVA is composed of 13 schools and colleges that offer 73 undergraduate majors, 69 master’s degrees, and 55 doctoral programs. Its most popular courses include biological sciences, economics, business, psychology, and international relations.
The California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) is one of the most prominent regional public universities in the U.S., known for its engineering programs. It is organized into six colleges that tackle engineering, liberal arts, environmental studies, business, architecture, and science and mathematics. The university offers more than 60 undergraduate and 35 graduate programs, with the most popular courses being engineering, marketing, business management, agriculture, social sciences, and biological sciences.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo admits over 21,400 undergraduates and 840 postgraduates, taught by more than 1,400 educators. It also has a competitive sports team, the Mustangs, that participates in NCAA Division I events.
The University of Michigan (UMich) is one of the top public universities in the U.S. and the world. Classified as an R1: Doctoral University, it is known for its high research activity, quality of instruction, and the strength of its academic programs. The university has produced a long list of notable alumni, including a U.S. president, 36 Pulitzer Prize winners, nine Nobel laureates, and 27 Rhodes Scholars. In addition, it has a reputable athletics team, the Wolverines, that competes in NCAA Division I and has produced 144 Olympic medals.
UMich is organized into 19 colleges and schools, offering more than 275 undergraduate and graduate programs. Its most popular courses include business administration, economics, computer science, psychology, and computer engineering.
Located in the town of Castine, the Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) is a state college that specializes in maritime training. Since the school is not a federal service academy, students are not mandated to enter military service after graduation, thus allowing them to pursue a wider range of occupations. The academy is organized into five departments that center on ocean studies, engineering, marine transportation, international business, and arts and sciences.
MMA offers 14 undergraduate majors, 15 minors, four joint programs, and two graduate programs. Its most popular courses include marine science, engineering and technology, systems engineering, international business, and naval architecture and marine engineering.
The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT) is one of the leading public universities in New Mexico and one of the more prominent regional universities in the country. It is organized into 14 departments that offer 23 undergraduate and 21 graduate programs as well as four graduate certificate programs and six distance education programs. The school’s most popular courses include petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, electrical and electronic engineering, and chemical engineering.
NMT’s research covers a broad spectrum of disciplines. Its key areas include petroleum research, astronomy, mine safety, materials sciences, water, climate, geology, and mineral resources.
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) is known for producing a significant number of healthcare professionals in Texas as it serves over 100 counties in the state. It is organized into five schools that focus on medicine, nursing, healthcare professions, pharmacy, and biomedical sciences, respectively, and has five campuses across West Texas. The school offers over 60 undergraduate and graduate programs, all of which are geared toward medicine and healthcare.
TTUHSC conducts its research in 18 institutes and 12 centers, as it apportions $1 billion on its annual research budget.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is known for its high research output, strong engineering programs, and annual economic impact on the state of New Jersey, which amounts to $2.8 billion. It is composed of six schools that offer 50 undergraduate and 68 graduate programs, attended by more than 8,700 undergraduates and 2,700 postgraduate students. The school’s most popular courses include engineering, computer science, business management, marketing, and architecture.
High-priority research at NJIT is consolidated into four multidisciplinary areas: sustainable systems, engineering and life sciences. information technology and data science, and transdisciplinary studies. As far as achievements are concerned, the university is affiliated with a Turing Award, two National Inventors Hall of Fame members, and eight National Academy of Engineering members, on top of having five Fullbright Scholars and eight Goldwater Scholars.
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) is one of the world’s leading public universities and is recognized as a Public Ivy. It is known for its high research activity and strong academic programs. Academically, the university is composed of 12 divisions and schools and seven colleges, offering more than 130 undergraduate majors and 61 graduate programs. The most popular majors are biology, mathematics, economics, computer science, and chemistry.
UCSD’s student body comprises more than 31,800 undergraduates and 8,600 postgraduates, taught by over 10,600 educators. The school is associated with 27 Nobel Prizes, three Pulitzer Prizes, three Fields Medals, and eight National Medals of Science.
The University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) is the University of Puerto Rico system’s second-biggest campus. It is known for its research on marine science and its academic programs in Hispanic studies and humanities. Spanish is the official teaching vernacular, but English is also used in a lot of academic programs. UPRM is organized into four colleges that focus on agricultural sciences, engineering, business administration, and arts and sciences, respectively. It furnishes 52 undergraduate, 28 graduate, and five doctoral programs.
As for its research, UPRM centers on 10 key areas, which include water, energy, cybersecurity, and coastal and ocean systems. Its research strengths are parallel to the subject matter of its colleges.
Established in 1807, the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) has some of the oldest professional academies for medicine, law, dentistry, social work, nursing, and pharmacy in the country. It is organized into seven schools centered on the aforementioned disciplines and offers 80 degree and certificate programs, including six postdoctoral certificate courses. The school’s most popular courses include computer science, psychology, biological and biomedical sciences, social sciences, and engineering.
UMB welcomes more than 7,100 students, of which 73% are female and 45% belong to racial minorities. The university’s learners, faculty, and staff contribute two million hours to community service each year.
Founded in 1891, the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) is the first medical school in Texas and is under the University of Texas System. Its 350-acre main campus contains over 70 buildings and has an expansive network of hospitals and clinics as well as a medical library. The university is organized into four schools, which respectively cover medicine, nursing, health professions, and biomedical sciences, and 22 research centers and institutes. Its student body consists of more than 3,200 students, taught by 900 faculty members.
UTMB is a significant contributor to the economy of Texas, having generated more than 46,000 jobs in the state. Its annual impact on the state is valued at around $3.3 billion.
Founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) is the University of Illinois system’s flagship university. Classified as an R1: Doctoral University, it is known for its high research activity, a strong athletics program, and a broad spectrum of course offerings. UIUC is organized into 16 colleges and schools, offering over 150 undergraduate and 100 graduate programs. Its most popular courses include business management, engineering, marketing, journalism, social sciences, and biomedical and biological sciences.
UIUC is a particularly large university as it spans 6,370 acres and houses more than 650 buildings. As for the accomplishments of its faculty and alumni, the school is associated with 30 Nobel laureates, two Turing Award recipients, a Fields Medal winner, and 27 Pulitzer Prize awardees.
Established in 1857, the San Jose State University (SJSU) is the American West Coast’s oldest public university and the California State University system’s founding campus. It leverages its 154-acre campus to offer more than 250 academic programs across all levels, furnished by its nine colleges, to more than 27,800 undergraduates and 5,400 postgraduate students. SJSU’s most popular courses include marketing, business management, engineering, psychology, and visual and performing arts.
In addition, SJSU has a popular sports team, the Spartans, that competes in NCAA Division I events.
Not all higher education institutions were made equal when it comes to earning back the money spent on one’s education, but simply taking the most prestigious educational route does not always yield the largest returns, at least in terms of starting salary. As seen on this list, some of the most prominent colleges and universities not just in the U.S., but in the world are highly ranked. However, esteemed universities like Harvard and Princeton barely make it to the top 10 while a lot of Public Ivies and members of the Ivy League can only rank within the top 15 (Payscale, 2020).
Of course, the reputation and overall academic performance of one’s school play a huge role in one’s return on investment in education. But there is an even bigger determinant based on the competencies of the top eight schools, their specializations, and by extension, a student’s chosen program. Medical schools and institutes of technology populate the top ten, joined by Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and the University of California-Berkeley, all of which have strengths reflective of those of technological institutes and medical schools (Payscale, 2020).
Meanwhile, higher education institutions that are renowned for their programs in engineering, technology, natural sciences, applied sciences, medicine, healthcare professions, and maritime studies are learners’ best bets if they are to get their money back in the shortest time possible. After all, the professions suggested by the aforementioned programs have some of the highest starting salaries in the world (Indeed.com, 2020).
Source: Payscale 2020
If we are to take ROI as a primary basis for selecting schools based on the list, we have to factor in the average tuition fees of the institutions, where the tuition is subtracted from the median starting salary to get the projected accumulated profit per year. And in doing so, we discovered that many of the colleges and universities that pay off the most are public schools because they generally have smaller tuition fees, especially for in-state learners.
Source: Payscale 2020, College Tuition Compare 2020,
Interestingly, at the top of the list is the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, a private school, as its average tuition fee is at the same level as its public counterparts. Meanwhile, programs in medicine, technology, mining, and maritime studies come as the most cost-effective.
However, as good a basis this may be, we also have to account for the length of one’s stay in an institution. For instance, medical students take longer than average students because they have to deal with residency, which typically lasts for more than three years, and other specialization courses (Kaplan, nd). The same goes for mining engineering students, given that they would need to pass licensure tests and gain job experience before becoming full-fledged mining engineers (Farnan, nd). But financially, the payoffs definitely make the whole process worth it while the added training significantly increases the number of professional opportunities one will be faced with.
As such, when picking a college or university, instead of focusing on just the tuition fees and the name value of schools, it is essential to do your homework on the specialty programs of the institution you are planning to enter and align them with your interests. You can start your research with these high-paying college majors. A first-rate program that you have a genuine interest in would likely merit you straight As in educational investment for your undergraduate and graduate studies.