The 25 Colleges Offering the Highest Return on Your Investment

Pharmacy schools came out on top in a big way.
Not a great place to keep your money.
Not a great place to keep your money. / sesame/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images
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It’s valid to wonder whether college is worth it at all—but the answer might depend on what college you’re talking about. 

In 2019, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce published an extensive report that ranked 4500 colleges and universities according to return on investment [PDF]. Researchers used data on tuition and postgraduate salaries from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard to determine the worth of a degree 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40 years after enrollment. 

The metric they went with for return on investment is “net present value” (NPV), which, per the report, is “how much a sum of money in the future is valued today [including] costs, future earnings, and the length of time it would take to invest and earn a certain amount of money over a fixed horizon.”

To them, the 40-year mark is the most accurate measure of worth, so that’s what we went with in the table below. The top 25 is a more eclectic mix than a garden-variety list of best colleges and universities. You’ve got your Yales and your Harvards, sure, but there are also a number of more trade-specific institutions. The top three, for example, are all pharmacy schools: Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. There are also a handful of maritime academies and, unsurprisingly, several tech institutes.

See the top 25 below, and explore the full report here, which also lets you filter for various factors. (You can, for example, choose to only see four-year or two-year schools, private or public schools, or only schools in, say, Ohio. There’s also a search function so you don’t have to scroll to find your own institution.)

Ranking

School

Location

40-Year NPV

1.

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Albany, New York

$2,722,000

2.

St. Louis College of Pharmacy

St. Louis, Missouri

$2,714,000

3.

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Boston, Massachusetts

$2,421,000

4.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

$2,273,000

5.

Stanford University

Stanford, California

$2,068,000

6.

Maine Maritime Academy

Castine, Maine

$2,043,000

7.

Babson College

Wellesley, Massachusetts

$1,985,000

8.

Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

$1,967,000

9.

Georgetown University

Washington, D.C.

$1,950,000

10.

United States Merchant Marine Academy

Kings Point, New York

$1,949,000

11.

University of the Sciences

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

$1,928,000

12.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

$1,869,000

13.

Harvey Mudd College

Claremont, California

$1,851,000

14.

Stevens Institute of Technology

Hoboken, New Jersey

$1,833,000

15.

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

$1,832,000

16.

California State University Maritime Academy

Vallejo, California

$1,818,000

17.

California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

$1,810,000

18.

Colorado School of Mines

Golden, Colorado

$1,794,000

19.

Bentley University

Waltham, Massachusetts

$1,786,000

20.

Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

$1,777,000

21.

Columbia University

New York City, New York

$1,769,000

22.

SUNY Maritime College

New York City, New York

$1,761,000

23.

Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

$1,754,000

24.

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

$1,750,000

25.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, Georgia

$1,729,000

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