Affordable Colleges With Highest Return on Investment

Earning a college degree requires a significant investment of both time and money. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013-2014 school year was $30,094 at private colleges, $8,893 for state residents at public colleges, and $22,203 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

The reason for making an investment in a college education is, of course, the expected return. According to a Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study, bachelor's degree holders can expect median lifetime earnings approaching $2.3 million, nearly twice as much as workers with only a high school diploma. Clearly, the investment in a college education will pay off in the long run. How much it pays off, however, depends on how smart the investment was in the first place. Finding affordable schools with quality education programs that translate to real career potential is the critical first step.

With student loan debt reaching a record high of $1.2 trillion, according to NBC News, students and families are understandably concerned about the cost of a college education. Skyrocketing tuition rates have also lead many to question whether a degree is even worth it. Research has shown, however, that a degree does pay off, as long as it leads to a well-paying career and not just a job at the local coffee shop post graduation.

The harsh reality is that some colleges and degrees pay for themselves, while others don’t, and in today’s job market that’s something all students need to seriously think about before enrolling in any college and degree program.

What is ROI?

ROI, or return on investment, is a term that many have probably heard before. It’s a performance or value metric that can be applied to all sorts of purchases to determine if something is worth one’s money. If the benefits—or return—outweigh the investment, that’s a good sign that the purchase will be worth it. In terms of higher education, ROI refers to the cost of attending college (investment) versus the graduate’s future earnings (return). Because college students will be spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on education, it’s important to determine a college’s ROI before making any commitments. ROI, however, can be very subjective, and there is no one-size-fits-all calculation. An important factor to one student may not be as important to another. For example student A may decide that she needs the personalized attention only found in a small classroom in order to do well, while student B can thrive in a small or large environment.

Although ROI can be very personal, below are important factors that all students should consider:

The Investment: Total Cost of College

To calculate a college’s ROI, the first step is to determine the total cost of college. While tuition and fees are amounts that most students look at, some tend to overlook other important expenses that can affect total cost. Examples of other expenses to consider include:

  • Additional fees, such as technology, assessment, laboratory and health insurance fees
  • Room and board
  • Textbooks and supplies
  • Personal living expenses

In addition to these expenses and fees, also consider the financial aid received, such as grants and scholarships. In recent years, the federal government has pushed for increased transparency when it comes to college prices so many schools now provide online calculators to help students and families estimate the total net costs.

Calculating Potential Debt

The potential debt that students accrue can greatly affect ROI. For example, if one’s student loan debt at graduation is more than one’s annual starting salary, that will be a problem. Ideally, a graduate should earn enough to meet all agreed repayment terms and conditions that came with the loan. This is when scholarships and grants will be beneficial. The more free money you can get, the less you’ll have to borrow and eventually pay back.

The Return: Expected Future Income

How much a graduate will earn is key to calculate college ROI, as well as making smart decisions about student loans. Even if you’re not sure of the amount, an educated guess will still be helpful as it’ll be difficult to determine if you’ll be able to earn back the money you invested in your degree without an idea of future income. The Bureau of Labor Statistics posts median wages for several industries and occupations. Sites such as are also useful for researching potential wages.

On a related note, one’s major or field can greatly influence future salary. It’s no surprise that an engineering degree will lead to a lucrative career, whereas a liberal arts degree will be much more varied, with some occupations even leading to little or no return at all. Therefore, when considering colleges, be sure to also think about your field of study and eventual career. If you’re passion is in a field that doesn’t pay well, it may be wise to consider a lower-cost college to maximize ROI.

According to, below are five majors that are a wise investment:

  • Information Technology
  • Human Resources
  • Economics
  • Engineering
  • Marketing

Other “Returns”

For many students, the primary concern is what they’ll earn after graduating. Although definitely important, some students may also consider other subjective, qualitative returns such as personal development and enrichment, life experience, passion, and socialization. These may not translate directly into financial benefits, but considering the fact that you’ll be committing a year, at the very least, of your life to being a student, they may help to keep you motivated and happy throughout the journey and can also positively affect you long after earning your cap and gown.

How Long Will it Take to Graduate?

Just because you’re pursuing a four-year degree, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll actually finish in four years. In fact, according to the Institute of Education Sciences, in 2012, 59 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students completed their degrees in six years. That’s two more years of tuition, fees, and student expenses that most likely weren’t factored in at the beginning.

Time to graduation is particularly important for adult learners to consider. Because many adult students work part- or full-time while in school, it may take them longer than expected to complete a degree program. This extra time can also result in missed income opportunities. For example, if you’re currently working full-time in marketing, but decide to go back to school for two years to earn an MBA, not only are you paying for an expensive degree, but you’re most likely losing out on income by going to part-time employment or giving up your job entirely. One way to bypass this is to attend an online college, which offers more flexibility so you can work towards your degree and still earn that full-time paycheck.

There are a number of free online tools and websites that students and families can use to estimate various college costs, including ROI. Below is a list of resources to help you make the most of your college investment:

College Reality Check

Produced by The Chronicle of Higher Education and backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this website provides information on graduation rates, net price, potential earnings, and how long it will take for students to pay off loans so that students and families have all the facts and information they need to make smart decisions about higher education.

The College Board

The College Board offers several tools and calculators as well as other information on paying for college to help students and families better prepare for the financial commitment of higher education.


Fidelity has compiled helpful information on various 529 savings plans as well as tools to estimate expected contributions and college costs.

LearnVest – Grad School Calculator

For those interested in going back to school to earn a master’s degree, LearnVest has created a tool to help prospective students determine whether grad school is actually worth it.

U.S. News & World Report – Net Price Calculators

Most colleges and universities now have online net price calculators available on their websites, but sometimes they can still be hard to find. U.S. News has compiled a list of net price calculators for 300 top National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges.

College Affordability and Transparency Center

In an effort to make college costs more transparent, the U.S. Department of Education launched the College Affordability and Transparency Center. Here, prospective students can find various information on colleges, including scorecards, net price calculators, and more.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

FINRA’s overall mission is to protect the public from fraud and bad practices and to promote fair financial markets. The organization has put together a whole section on smart saving for college, including a college savings calculator to figure out the annual amount you should be investing in order to have enough money to pay for all college costs.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

CFPB offers all kinds of information on paying for college, financial aid, and repaying student debt.

Federal Student Aid

Increasing college ROI often requires lots of careful budgeting. The DOE’s Federal Student Aid Office offers the following financial tips.

Lumina Foundation – College Costs, Prices and the Great Recession

The organization recently released a paper on college costs, prices and the Great Recession. Read the report to get a better understanding of the big picture.

Finding an affordable college to attend just got a little bit easier. At Affordable Colleges Online we’re dedicated to helping you find the most affordable colleges in the fields you desire. We know how important a college degree is in today’s job market so we’ve analyzed the data and come up with this list of the most affordable colleges with the biggest return on investment. Check out the results and visit the university websites to find out which college is right for you. To find out how these colleges made our top-50 list, be sure to read our selection methodology.

Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus
30 Year Net ROI: $836,000 4 Year Tuition: $26,704 Enrollment: 23,017 State: GA

Ranked #1, The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world’s premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report’s top public universities, the Institute enrolls over 21,000 students within its 6 colleges. Georgia Tech is the nation’s leading producer of engineers as well as female and minority engineering Ph.D. graduates. Holding more than 848 patents and receiving approximately $689 million in research and development expenditures, Georgia Tech ranks among the nation’s top ten universities (without a medical school) in research expenditures.

State University of New York at New Paltz
30 Year Net ROI: $644,500 4 Year Tuition: $21,080 Enrollment: 9,137 State: NY

Top-ranked SUNY New Paltz provides one of the nation’s most open, diverse, and artistic environments in order to prepare students to excel in rapidly changing times. The tradition of intellectual discovery is enhanced by a location of stunning natural beauty, in a dynamic college town, with easy access to New York City. The unusually wide array of professional and liberal arts majors fosters a rich academic milieu in which 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, selected through a competitive admissions process, can develop to their highest potential. New Paltz has been recognized as a “green” school with environmentally-friendly buildings and campus-wide recycling programs. With award-winning faculty members, SUNY New Paltz has been recognized for its value.

University of Virginia-Main Campus
30 Year Net ROI: $620,900 4 Year Tuition: $36,960 Enrollment: 30,731 State: VA

Named the No. 2 best public university by U.S. News and World Report, University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. The school’s suburban campus features bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in health professions, engineering, education, psychology, social sciences, and more.

Texas A & M University-College Station
30 Year Net ROI: $568,900 4 Year Tuition: $21,188 Enrollment: 51,417 State: TX

Texas A&M is the nation’s sixth-largest university, with more than 50,000 students enrolled in more than 120 undergraduate degree programs. However, it has the “feel” of a much smaller campus, thanks to the friendliness personified by the entire Aggie community in College Station. Its high-achieving students are challenged by a rigorous curriculum that is complemented by numerous study-abroad, internship and undergraduate research opportunities. With more than 800 student organizations on campus, they also are given a host of opportunities to develop leadership skills that serve them well after graduation. Home to the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the campus also features entertainment venues, landmarks, a visitor’s center, and more.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
30 Year Net ROI: $551,600 4 Year Tuition: $35,408 Enrollment: 33,248 State: VA

Through its missions of learning, discovery, and engagement and dedication to the university motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on approach to education. Virginia Tech offers over 70 undergraduate degree programs and 150 master’s and doctoral degree programs to more than 30,000 students while managing a research portfolio of more than $450 million. Through a combination of competitive tuition and fee rates and increased funding for student financial aid Virginia Tech is consistently named a ‘best value’ on several national rankings.

College of William and Mary
30 Year Net ROI: $544,800 4 Year Tuition: $33,080 Enrollment: 9,117 State: VA

Considered a “Public Ivy” and one of the world’s great liberal arts universities, the College of William & Mary blends the intimacy of a liberal arts college with the reach of a research university. Founded by Royal Charter in 1693, it is the second oldest college and the first university in the country. W&M offers 30 undergraduate and 10 graduate programs in arts & sciences, business, education, law, and marine science and its programs regularly place near the top of college rankings. Today, enrollment stands at just over 8,000 full-time (graduate and undergraduate) students with a 12:1 student/faculty ratio, among the lowest of public universities.

California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo
30 Year Net ROI: $542,700 4 Year Tuition: $21,888 Enrollment: 19,077 State: CA

Named the West’s best public master’s-level university for two decades by U.S. News and World Report, Cal Poly is a comprehensive polytechnic campus of about 18,000 students on California’s Central Coast. One of the California State University’s 23 campuses, Cal Poly provides a renowned Learn by Doing education aimed at producing innovative professionals and future industry leaders literate in science and technology as well as the liberal arts. With graduates who hold a 97% employment rate, Cal Poly is a nationally-ranked university located on California’s Central Coast. Admissions are highly competitive with rates below 10% for the freshman class.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy
30 Year Net ROI: $542,600 4 Year Tuition: $5,580 Enrollment: 1,417 State: MA

Massachusetts Maritime Academy was made for sea-loving students. Graduates go on to serve the maritime industry after a physically rigorous and mentally challenging academic program. Graduate programs, continuing education, and maritime training are also available.

University of Maryland-College Park
30 Year Net ROI: $518,000 4 Year Tuition: $27,864 Enrollment: 43,316 State: MD

The University of Maryland is home to more than 90 majors, 800 clubs and organizations, 20 NCAA Division I teams, and 25 programs ranked in the top 10 nationally. The suburban campus offers students numerous opportunities including internships at the White House, the Smithsonian Institution, and NASA.

Missouri University of Science and Technology
30 Year Net ROI: $510,800 4 Year Tuition: $31,392 Enrollment: 8,086 State: MO

Often referred to as Missouri S&T, Missouri University of Science and Technology is a public, state-sponsored college situated in Rolla. Offering more than 65 degree programs, S&T is one of the nation’s leading technological research universities. Students may choose from engineering, business, sciences, the humanities and liberal arts, as well as pre-professional advising. Numerous athletic teams compete in NCAA Division II programs and non-athletes can participate in ROTC or countless other clubs and organizations. Missouri S&T has received numerous national accolades for being a “best investment” college, as well as a premier technological institution.

University of Washington-Seattle Campus
30 Year Net ROI: $471,400 4 Year Tuition: $38,984 Enrollment: 49,554 State: WA

Located in the heart of Seattle, UW is one the top research universities in the country. Colleges in arts and sciences, education, environment, nursing, engineering, public affairs and more give students a wide variety of programs from which to choose. A large undergraduate research program encourages students to conduct their own studies and experiments, and to work closely with faculty in creating new knowledge.

Brigham Young University-Provo
30 Year Net ROI: $468,200 4 Year Tuition: $18,240 Enrollment: 40,203 State: UT

Brigham Young University was established in 1875 to provide higher education under the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bachelor’s degrees are available in 193 programs with an additional 62 and 26 master’s and doctoral degrees, respectively. BYU is home to numerous libraries, museums, theatres and concert halls.

Stony Brook University
30 Year Net ROI: $466,400 4 Year Tuition: $21,080 Enrollment: 29,576 State: NY

Stony Brook University is a dynamic public university on the North Shore of Long Island in New York State. Placed in the top 1% of universities worldwide by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Stony Brook is a smart choice for your future. The school offers first-rate opportunities for undergraduate research and more than 200 majors, minors and combined-degree programs.

The University of Texas at Austin
30 Year Net ROI: $464,200 4 Year Tuition: $39,176 Enrollment: 55,620 State: TX

What starts at The University of Texas at Austin changes the world. UT Austin is among the top public research universities in the nation, awarding approximately 12,000 degrees each year while charging lower tuition than most of our peer schools and continually innovating the classroom experience. The faculty and students are at the heart of game-changing research in the sciences and humanities and students receive a top-tier education in a city regarded as one of the coolest places to live.

Purdue University-Main Campus
30 Year Net ROI: $420,400 4 Year Tuition: $35,572 Enrollment: 44,644 State: IN

Located in West Lafayette, Purdue also has several regional campuses from which to choose. Purdue offers more than 200 majors and programs and gives first-year students the opportunity to join a Learning Community to share in the college experience together.

SUNY at Binghamton
30 Year Net ROI: $416,700 4 Year Tuition: $21,080 Enrollment: 16,203 State: NY

A world-class institution, Binghamton University offers students a broad, interdisciplinary education with an international perspective and one of the most vibrant research programs in the nation. Ranked among the elite public universities in the country, Binghamton challenges students academically, not financially, in its unique, best-of-both-worlds environment. The students, both undergraduate and graduate, work one-on-one with an exceptional faculty and groundbreaking scholars. They take advantage of special academic opportunities like combined degrees, foreign language study groups and an unparalleled international education program.

University of Connecticut
30 Year Net ROI: $401,800 4 Year Tuition: $33,024 Enrollment: 27,648 State: CT

Students at the University of Connecticut can choose form 102 undergraduate majors, 88 graduate fields of study, and five professional degree programs. Located in a beautiful rural setting, there are more than 500 clubs and organizations in which students may be involved.

University of Wisconsin-Madison
30 Year Net ROI: $390,400 4 Year Tuition: $34,368 Enrollment: 46,756 State: WI

Located on the shore of Lake Mendota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is home to numerous parks and more than 150 miles of trails for runners, bikers, and hikers. Degrees are available in genetics, dairy science, wildlife ecology, international business, numerous concentrations in education and engineering, plus various certificate programs. Extracurricular activities are available for nearly every interest.

University of Massachusetts Amherst
30 Year Net ROI: $366,900 4 Year Tuition: $6,856 Enrollment: 31,417 State: MA

At Umass Amherst, students may choose from a wide range of academic programs and unique concentrations or design their own major through the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration program. Students are involved in programs that impact day-to-day student life, such as the Student Government Association and Student Leadership Council.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
30 Year Net ROI: $364,800 4 Year Tuition: $27,840 Enrollment: 24,928 State: FL

This private university has small class sizes and degrees that focus on aviation, engineering, and business. Embry-Riddle’s main campus is located at Daytona Beach, Florida with a residential campus in Prescott, Arizona and has more than 130 satellite campuses worldwide designed to meet the needs of civilian and military working adults.

University of Colorado Boulder
30 Year Net ROI: $361,600 4 Year Tuition: $30,688 Enrollment: 36,946 State: CO

CU-Boulder was founded in 1877 and is the flagship university of the state. The college embraces diversity and offers a wide range of resources for every student and interest. More than 150 areas of study are available to CU-Boulder’s nearly 30,000 students.

James Madison University
30 Year Net ROI: $360,500 4 Year Tuition: $18,568 Enrollment: 22,093 State: VA

JMU is frequently recognized as one of the top universities in the country. With degree opportunities in communications, intelligence analysis, justice studies, education, quantitative finance, and more, students have a broad range of choices. Located between farmlands and mountain ranges in the Shenandoah Valley approximately two hours from Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., JMU is a unique geographic location to live and work.

California State Polytechnic University-Pomona
30 Year Net ROI: $360,400 4 Year Tuition: $21,888 Enrollment: 22,770 State: CA

One of only two polytechnic universities in California, Cal Poly Pomona embraces a learn-by-doing philosophy, turning theory to practice in every academic discipline. The university recognizes that students who solve classroom challenges today have an advantage as professionals solving real-world problems tomorrow. Cal Poly Pomona, nestled in 1,438 rolling acres is located about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles and enjoys a suburban setting with all the luxuries of a major metropolitan area.

George Mason University
30 Year Net ROI: $356,500 4 Year Tuition: $27,008 Enrollment: 45,933 State: VA

George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with global distinction in a range of academic fields. Located in Northern Virginia near Washington, D.C., Mason provides students access to diverse cultural experiences and the most sought-after internships and employers in the country. Mason offers strong undergraduate and graduate degree programs in engineering and information technology, organizational psychology, health care and visual and performing arts. George Mason University—Where Innovation Is Tradition.

University of Florida
30 Year Net ROI: $351,000 4 Year Tuition: $16,240 Enrollment: 58,082 State: FL

The University of Florida is one of the nation’s most academically diverse public universities with 16 colleges, more than 100 undergraduate majors, and almost 200 graduate programs. Through its new January-through-August Innovation Academy, it offers a minor in innovation. In the coming year, UF Online will offer full four-year online bachelor’s degree programs. UF is located in Gainesville.

The College of New Jersey
30 Year Net ROI: $350,100 4 Year Tuition: $39,040 Enrollment: 8,486 State: NJ

The College of New Jersey is ranked as one of the most competitive schools in the country and has earned national recognition for the excellence it displays through its students, faculty, and academic programs. Students are encouraged to broaden their horizons through TCNJ’s 150+ extracurricular organizations. An award-winning First-Year Experience and freshman orientation program ensures that students are successful.

North Carolina State University at Raleigh
30 Year Net ROI: $329,700 4 Year Tuition: $20,612 Enrollment: 40,165 State: NC

Located in the heart of Raleigh, North Carolina, NC State offers research opportunities to its undergraduate population, helping to put their studies to practice and allowing them to be more competitive in the job market and when applying to graduate school. More than 34,000 students attend this globally-recognized university.

Texas Tech University
30 Year Net ROI: $328,000 4 Year Tuition: $18,796 Enrollment: 35,105 State: TX

A major research university, Texas Tech is proud to maintain the feel of a smaller institution. Graduate and undergraduate enrollments are at record levels. The faculty and students are winning international acclaim and they are recruiting and hiring top-flight faculty in a variety of disciplines. The goal at Texas Tech is simple: become one of the nation’s great research universities.

University of Delaware
30 Year Net ROI: $303,700 4 Year Tuition: $38,680 Enrollment: 23,239 State: DE

Started as a small private academy in 1743, the University of Delaware has grown to serve more than 20,000 graduate and undergraduate students with associate, bachelor, master, doctoral, and dual graduate programs. UD has state-of-the-art academic and public facilities and offers 21 intercollegiate athletics programs as well as 300 student organizations. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has identified UD as a research university with very high research activity, making UD one of the premier research institutions in the nation.

Auburn University
30 Year Net ROI: $302,900 4 Year Tuition: $29,184 Enrollment: 26,840 State: AL

Auburn is one of the few universities to hold land, sea, and space grants and is among the largest universities in the South. Auburn’s 25,000 students can choose form 140 undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in architecture, forestry, veterinary science, interior design, and more. New and continuing students benefit from the college’s academic coaching and counseling and Study Smart program.

San Jose State University
30 Year Net ROI: $294,800 4 Year Tuition: $21,888 Enrollment: 31,575 State: CA

SJSU’s beginnings were as a normal school, training teachers to educate the children of the new frontier. Now, the university offers students 134 bachelor’s and master’s degrees with 110 concentrations. Located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, students enjoy SJSU’s varied athletics, recreation, entertainment, arts, culture, and student activities.

Washington State University
30 Year Net ROI: $285,300 4 Year Tuition: $37,496 Enrollment: 29,962 State: WA

WSU has earned national recognition for many of its programs, including its community engagement, research activity, and awards for many of its specific academic colleges. In addition to the main Pullman campus, WSU’s 26,000 students also attend classes in Spokane, Tri-Cities, Vancouver, and globally through eLearning, online degrees, and additional opportunities.

Iowa State University
30 Year Net ROI: $284,200 4 Year Tuition: $25,632 Enrollment: 31,501 State: IA

With 100 majors and more than 800 student organizations, students are certain to find coursework and activities of interest here. Iowa State is located in the scenic town of Ames and serves more than 30,000 students. The university’s learning communities, a nationally-rated program that assists students through their first years of college life, boast a 70% new student participation.

Oregon State University
30 Year Net ROI: $279,000 4 Year Tuition: $24,912 Enrollment: 28,188 State: OR

Oregon State University is Oregon’s leading public research university, with more than 26,000 students in 13 colleges and nearly 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Oregon State attracts more top students than any other university in Oregon, with more than 2,000 undergraduates participating in research projects every year. The median income of Oregon State alumni is 50 percent greater than the median income of college graduates nationwide.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
30 Year Net ROI: $276,700 4 Year Tuition: $13,720 Enrollment: 2,721 State: SD

Since 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology has been a national leader in preparing world-class engineers and scientists. Award-winning undergraduate education is enhanced by graduate education and research and development in areas of critical need to South Dakota, the nation, and the world. Our graduates design, construct, and operate the most modern technology to meet today’s complex challenges and are held in the highest regard by their fellow leaders in industry, consulting, government, health, research, and education.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
30 Year Net ROI: $270,200 4 Year Tuition: $20,512 Enrollment: 32,426 State: NC

UNC was the nation’s first public university, opening its doors in 1795. Located in the college town of Chapel Hill, UNC is nationally-ranked for its research and offers its 29,000 students a wide range of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs. Campus recreation helps to round out students’ education with art galleries, an outdoor education center, intramural sports, and more.

University of Rhode Island
30 Year Net ROI: $268,600 4 Year Tuition: $39,296 Enrollment: 19,185 State: RI

The University of Rhode Island (URI) is the largest university in the nation’s smallest state. That means offers the cutting-edge research, discovery, and experiences typically found at much larger institutions, alongside the friendly, student-centered atmosphere of smaller institutions. In 2009 and 2011, The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine ranked URI top in New England for “best return on investment.” In 2013, the Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges name URI onto fate national’s most eco-friendly campuses for the fourth consecutive year. And in 2008, URI was listed in The Princeton Review’s Colleges with a Conscience: 81 Great Schools with Outstanding Community Involvement.” With more than 100 degrees, interdisciplinary programs, and leading problem solvers, URI inspires its students to provide a constant flow of big ideas to respond to the world’s changing needs.

University of Maryland-Baltimore County
30 Year Net ROI: $266,600 4 Year Tuition: $27,516 Enrollment: 14,756 State: MD

UMBC is a public honors university with about 10,000 students choosing from 42 undergraduate majors, 37 master’s programs, and 24 doctoral programs. Located 15 minutes from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and 30 minutes from Washington, D.C., UMBC offers a long list of clubs and activities to help round out students’ education.

California State University-Fullerton
30 Year Net ROI: $265,000 4 Year Tuition: $21,888 Enrollment: 39,521 State: CA

With an aim to become a model comprehensive university, Cal State Fullerton offers students educational experiences both in and outside of the classroom. Located in Orange County, the university has partnerships with public and private organizations to provide its 37,000 students the best degree programs possible. Services are available for freshmen as well as students needing additional assistance to make the most of their college experience.

Ohio State University-Main Campus
30 Year Net ROI: $263,500 4 Year Tuition: $35,424 Enrollment: 64,425 State: OH

Established in 1870, The Ohio State University has been ranked among the top public universities in the U.S. With 175 undergraduate majors and a total enrollment of nearly 65,000, OSU offers a wide range of learning and extracurricular activities to its students. The university’s athletic program is the largest self-supporting athletics program in the country.

University of Oklahoma Norman Campus
30 Year Net ROI: $261,200 4 Year Tuition: $15,396 Enrollment: 30,642 State: OK

At OU, undergraduate students have the unique opportunity to work alongside professors and industry leaders to conduct research projects. Small class sizes add to students’ educational experience, in addition to the more than 450 clubs and organizations available. Located in small-town Norman, the university population still enjoys all the benefits of a big city with a 20-minute drive to Oklahoma City.

University of Alabama at Huntsville
30 Year Net ROI: $249,100 4 Year Tuition: $32,376 Enrollment: 8,976 State: AL

UAHuntsville serves about 7,700 students, offering 71 degree programs ranging from bachelor’s degrees to Ph.D. programs. With a student/faculty ratio of 16:1, students enjoy a close relationship with their professors. The university also offers professional and continuing education courses for working professionals looking to improve their marketability in the workforce.

San Diego State University
30 Year Net ROI: $248,900 4 Year Tuition: $21,888 Enrollment: 34,999 State: CA

San Diego State University, the region’s largest university, is a major public research institution offering bachelor’s degrees in 89 areas, master’s degrees in 78 areas and doctorates in 21 areas. With nearly $130 million in annual research funding, a commitment to excellence in diversity and a nationally recognized veterans’ program, the university provides opportunities for transformative educational experiences including undergraduate research, internships and study abroad. Within minutes of downtown San Diego and the Pacific Ocean, SDSU enjoys a scenic location.

University of Mary Washington
30 Year Net ROI: $246,600 4 Year Tuition: $17,848 Enrollment: 6,049 State: VA

The University of Mary Washington is a premier, selective public liberal arts and sciences university in Virginia, highly respected for its commitment to academic excellence, strong undergraduate liberal arts and sciences program, and dedication to life-long learning. The university, with a total enrollment of more than 5,000, features colleges of business, education and arts and sciences, and three campuses, including a residential campus in Fredericksburg, Va., a second one in nearby Stafford and a third in Dahlgren, Va., which serves as a center of development of educational and research partnerships between the Navy, higher education institutions and the region’s employers.

University of Georgia
30 Year Net ROI: $246,100 4 Year Tuition: $26,704 Enrollment: 38,822 State: GA

Located 60 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, UGA was founded in 1785. It serves about 35,000 students, including those attending extended campuses. More than 600 student organizations are available to students and athletes compete in the NCAA Division I program.

Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
30 Year Net ROI: $245,200 4 Year Tuition: $18,232 Enrollment: 32,013 State: LA

LSU is home to numerous nationally-ranked programs. With degree programs in agriculture, veterinary medicine, mass communication, education, engineering, business, and more, students are certain to find a program of interest. Students can enjoy the many museums, music venues, theatres, student organizations, and recreational activities in and around the university.

Oregon Institute of Technology
30 Year Net ROI: $244,700 4 Year Tuition: $25,508 Enrollment: 4,987 State: OR

Oregon Tech, the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest, provides a rigorous, practical education while using cutting-edge application for real-world solutions. To foster student and graduate success, the university provides an intimate, hands-on learning environment, focusing on application of theory to practice. Oregon Tech offers degree programs in engineering, health technologies, management, and the arts and sciences. When you graduate, you won’t just find a job, you’ll launch your career.

University of Iowa
30 Year Net ROI: $238,600 4 Year Tuition: $25,744 Enrollment: 33,952 State: IA

A major national research university, Iowa educates more than 30,000 students. A Big Ten athletic school, more than a million visitors flock to the university each year to attend athletic events, participate in conferences and educational programs, or to enjoy cultural and art exhibitions. Students choose from more than 100 areas of study including seven professional degrees.

University at Buffalo
30 Year Net ROI: $225,100 4 Year Tuition: $21,080 Enrollment: 32,412 State: NY

UB was founded in 1846 and is a flagship institution in the State University of New York system. The student body consists of nearly 30,000 students studying more than 100 undergraduate degrees, 205 master’s degrees, 84 doctoral degrees, and 10 professional degrees. At this research-intensive public university, students may also choose from a wide range of extracurricular activities.

Ramapo College of New Jersey
30 Year Net ROI: $224,300 4 Year Tuition: $32,748 Enrollment: 7,016 State: NJ

Consistently ranked a good value, Ramapo College of New Jersey offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include nursing and social work. In addition, Ramapo College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels and six graduate programs. Undergraduates choose to concentrate their studies in one of five schools with more than 700 course offerings and 40 academic programs. Ramapo College boasts an average student/faculty ratio of 18:1 and average class size of 23, affording students the opportunity to develop close ties to the College’s exceptional faculty.