SmartMoney’s college ranking based on ROI

by Grace

SmartMoney’s college ranking system is based on schools’ Return On Investment (ROI)

For decades, the best-known college rankings have tried to encompass everything from alumni giving and “academic reputation” to dorm amenities. But a few years ago, SmartMoney stripped all that away in favor of a simpler benchmark. With help from PayScale, a Seattle-based compensation-data company that maintains salary profiles of 29 million workers, we collected median pay figures for two pools of each school’s alums: recent grads (who’ve been out of school for an average of two years) and midcareer types (an average of 15 years out). For each class, we divided the median alumnus salary by tuition and fees (assuming they paid full price at then-current rates), averaged the results and, finally, converted that result to a percentage figure. The outcome: a measure of return on (tuition) investment that we’ve dubbed the Payback Score. For example, a hypothetical grad who spent $100,000 to attend college and now earns $150,000 a year would score 150. The higher the score, obviously, the better.

Another imperfect college rating system
SmartMoney’s system, like all the others, is far from perfect.  In addition to ignoring financial aid, it does not account for course of study, graduate school attendance or lower tuition paid by in state students.  Only the 50 top-priced schools are included in the ranking.  So while it does  give a generalized view of  the financial value of the listed colleges, your own situation can be very different.

Georgia Tech had the best ROI measured as average alumni salaries divided by the tuition and fees they paid.

Ivy League beat by public schools even though their salaries were lower.

This link – Colleges That Help Grads Get Top Salaries – has the interactive list with specific information for all colleges.


2 Comments to “SmartMoney’s college ranking based on ROI”

  1. I think this data is skewed a bit by a couple of factors. The schools at the top of the list are all schools with huge engineering departments, which probably makes a difference. And schools like URI(!!) and UConn show up because of a combination of lowish tuition and graduates who tend to work in Boston or NYC, where salaries are higher than in the rest of the country.


  2. Yeah, that makes sense. These ranking lists only go so far in helping an individual evaluate schools for their particular needs.


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