What’s the value of a college degree? Students, parents, and analysts alike have pondered this question since the birth of modern higher education. Many want to leave college and make millions; few want to fathom an investment with less-than-lucrative returns.
Yet what if a college degree did mean millions? Not an actual cashier’s check, of course, but in the form lifetime earnings. The money you’d earn as a result of your education would surpass – by millions — what you’d make had you failed to take the post-secondary plunge. Seem to good to be true? Maybe not.
The following public colleges and universities belong to a very exclusive club: their graduates earn, on average, at least one million dollars more over 30 years than non-degree holders. These 16 institutions represent the absolute cream of the crop, the Top 1% of colleges in the U.S. when it comes to return on investment.
To find the public colleges with million-dollar returns, Affordable Colleges Online analyzed tuition, fees, and graduate salaries for thousands of institutions nationwide. Data came solely from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the Carnegie Foundation, and PayScale.com – the most trusted and reliable sources of college and career information.
Located at historic Fort Schuyler in Throngs Neck, New York, SUNY Maritime College makes up part of the State University of New York System. In addition to a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degrees, SUNY Maritime offers five different ROTC options, as well as US Coast Guard license and internship programs. The college has a rich curriculum with focus on maritime studies, naval architecture, international transportation and trade, business, and the humanities.
Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Colorado School of Mines is a public research institution dedicated to excellence in engineering and the applied sciences. The college has a strong commitment to resource exploration, protection, and management. Mines offers a unique mixture of global research opportunities and smaller, more intimate classroom settings.
Georgia Institute of Technology, or simply “Georgia Tech”, is a private research-heavy university with degree programs from the associate to the doctoral level. While science and technology comprise the core of the school’s curriculum, Georgia Tech also boasts a wide range of coursework in business and the liberal arts. The university lies in the heart of Atlanta and serves a student body of 21,000.
Located on Cape Cod, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy has challenged students with its regimented college atmosphere for more than a century. MMA has a rich collection of maritime-focused degree programs, mostly in areas such as transportation, engineering, industry, and the environment. This co-ed academy strives to graduate both men and women fully prepared to serve the marine industry, the Commonwealth, and the nation.
Founded in 1885, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology is a science and engineering research university located in Rapid City, S.D., offering bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university enrolls more than 2,400 students from 32 countries, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. The average starting salary for 2012 graduates was $62,696 with a 98 percent placement rate.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) presents students with more than 125 degree options at the undergraduate and graduate levels, respectively. For more than 130 years, NJIT has served as one of New Jersey’s most successful post-secondary institutions, with 98 percent of faculty holding the highest degree available in their fields.
Often referred to as Missouri S&T, Missouri University of Science and Technology is a public, state-sponsored school located in Rolla. S&T offers a wide range of academic programs available on campus and/or through distance learning. Missouri S&T has received numerous national accolades for being a “best investment” college, as well as a premier technological institution.
Founded in 1868, the University of California at Berkeley is widely known for academic excellence. Forty-eight of the university’s programs have received top 10 rankings nationally, and faculty have 8 Nobel Prizes and 4 Pulitzer Prizes to their names. Berkeley has also contributed or played a leading role in science, technology, and cultural innovation or progress for decades.
Part of the 23-campus California State University system, Cal Poly is a four-year, nationally ranked, public university located in San Luis Obispo, the mid-point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Cal Poly is a distinctive learning educational institution offering their diverse student body a hands-on educational experience, preparing them for today’s technical and scientific world. Cal Poly’s motto is “learn by doing”.
Part of the University of Massachusetts system, UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 16,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.
As the sixth-largest university in the United States, Texas A&M is has more than 50,000 students enrolled in more than 120 undergraduate degree programs. While that may sound large, Texas A&M has the “feel” of a much smaller campus, thanks to the culture of friendliness in the Aggie community in College Station, Texas. The university’s high-achieving students are challenged by a top-tier educational curriculum, complemented by numerous international study options, internships and undergraduate research opportunities.
Located in the beautiful city of La Jolla, California, UCSD is not only situated on a spectacular campus but is also one of the nation’s highest ranked academic colleges. As part of the University of California system, UCSD consistently ranks in the top 10 public universities and is one of the nation’s leading public research institutions.
A land-grant public university, Virginia Tech’s mission is to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and beyond. With more than 31,000 full-time students, Virginia Tech has the largest number of degree offerings in Virginia as well as a study-abroad site in Switzerland. The university ranks among the top research grant facilities in the nation with $450 million generated for research programs in 2011. Virginia Tech has programs available for nearly every interest with more than 70 undergraduate majors and minors and a whopping 150 master’s and doctoral degree programs.
The College of William and Mary is proud to be different. The second oldest college in the nation, William & Mary is one of only eight “Public Ivy” universities in the U.S. offering high-quality education accessible to everyone. Students regularly participate in service projects; in a recent year providing 323,000 volunteer hours in the greater Williamsburg area for more than 90 non-profit partners. Students and professors work side-by-side in research programs, allowing students an unparalleled real-world experience.
There’s no doubt that University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students are in a class of their own, and just looking at some of the alumni is proof enough. Students here study in the same halls that once held Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, Olympic medalists, astronauts, and leaders of international corporations. Illinois is a nationally-recognized research facility where graduate students have the opportunity for hands-on work in their future careers.
Long Island’s only public research university, Stony Brook helps to drive the area’s high-tech economy and is one of only 10 universities in the nation recognized by the National Science Foundation for providing research opportunities to undergraduates. Stony Brook recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and has a vision to dedicate the next 50 years to “operational excellence, academic greatness, and building [its] future.”