Many years ago if you made it through middle school you were doing well. Eventually, a high school diploma became the standard. Now, even with a college degree, it can be tough to compete. This urges many to go for their Master’s degrees. But college expenses can accumulate quickly, especially when no scholarships are involved. There are some schools that offer a better return on your investment than others, and a degree from some schools is viewed more favorably than others.
Return on investment is looked at in a strictly financial way. How much is tuition for a four-year degree, how much is the average starting salary for graduates, and how much will the person earn over their lifetime because they have the degree (over and above what they would likely earn without it). Taking this approach is how Payscale builds their list of over 1,500 schools across the country. Starting with the school that has the highest return on investment, Payscale lists out the financials based on tuitions and 30 years of salary history from that school’s alumni. You can do a simple search function (Ctrl-F on a PC) if you want to find a particular school. It should be noted that there are some things that are not conveyed when looking strictly at numbers. For instance, many students do not pay full price, the cost of living is included in the school costs (something you would be paying for regardless of if you were attending college or not), and the degree earned has a big say in a person’s future income.
In order to get around some of the problems with the Payscale method, Forbes created their own list. They look at numerous different factors, and they make their list based on the overall college, not just the cost. So when looking at the Forbes list many people will notice that it is drastically different from the Payscale list (for instance Harvey Mudd College is at the top of the list on Payscale, but it is number 52 on the Forbes list). For overall academic value, Forbes has a list of the best schools.
To some people strictly the numbers are the most important thing. They want to get the most return on their investment, and move on with their life. If this is the case, then the technology and engineering schools that occupy the top of the Payscale list is definitely the place to start. For those who are looking for the overall college education experience, where they will get the most for their money in terms of quality of education, then the Forbes list is the place to start.
The best way to pick a school is to start with the type of program that you want. Narrow down the top 5 or 10 best schools that provide a quality education in that program. Then choose the 3 that you can afford, and the 3 you would love to attend. Compare prices, and start negotiating with admittance personnel; it will be hard, but you can pit one school against another. Apply for scholarships, get grants, and work hard to get your education for free.
College education is essential for many jobs. If you are going to be shelling out thousands of dollars, you might as well get the best return on your investment. But is it worthwhile to do something you don’t love just because it pays more? The answer will determine which list you use when searching for colleges. Of course, you can always forego the degree.