Is a college education worth the cost? The average annual cost of a college education is over $35,000 a year. This includes tuition, room and board. The average student loan for the four years is almost $40,000. College loans to the federal government total a staggering almost $1.6 trillion.
These loans can take years, or decades, to pay off. This may keep some of those in debt from buying a home. It certainly hurts consumer spending, which is bad for the national economy.
College degrees tend to drive vastly different earnings by type. Economics and accounting degrees tend to produce high salaries. So do business and math degrees. On the other hand, liberal arts and humanities majors often limit graduates to very low-paying jobs.
These differences in earnings by major cause people to look at the return of investment on their college educations. One primary measure of this is how many years it takes to pay off student loans.
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) recently released its Ranking 4,500 Colleges by ROI (2022) report. The primary measure is what people make after a four-year degree compared to those with only a high school education. One of the conclusions is depressing: “However, at 1,233 postsecondary institutions (30 percent), more than half of their students 10 years after enrollment are earning less than a high school graduate.” The data also show that there are differences by gender, race and ethnicity. CEW Director Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale said, “College typically pays off, but the return on investment varies by credential, program of study, and institution.”
The study ranked schools on their 40-year return on investment. Interestingly, those that did best among the top 10 were dominated by pharmacy and health sciences degrees. Some of these are from small colleges. University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis was at the top of the list, with 40-year earnings of $2.68 million. Founded in 1864 it has about 1,300 total students.
These are the 10 colleges and universities with the best ROI:
- University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis ($2.68 million)
- Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences ($2.61 million)
- Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences ($2.51 million)
- California Institute of Technology ($2.49 million)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($2.49 million)
- Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science ($2.39 million)
- Harvey Mudd College ($2.37 million)
- Bentley University ($2.25 million)
- Babson College ($2.24 million)
- University of Pennsylvania ($2.21 million)
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