Special Report

50 Best Colleges in America

Total overall student debt in the United States reached $1.6 trillion in June 2019, six times higher than in 2004. While students are having a hard time paying for college, getting a degree can still be a worthwhile investment, depending a great deal on where one goes to school.

Some colleges are better known for their graduates’ high earning potential and low debt — attendees at these schools tend to earn relatively high incomes 10 years after enrollment without taking on an inordinate amount of debt. Acceptance to these schools has become highly sought after and typically only a small share of applicants are accepted. This exclusivity further cements their reputation as one of the top colleges in the country. 

To determine the best colleges in America, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of three measures — acceptance rate, average earnings of past students 10 years after enrollment, and median debt at graduation. 

While a degree from one of the universities on this list is likely to bring better job opportunities to graduates, choice of major also significantly affects employment and earning potential. Students who study in technological and scientific fields, are much less likely to be unemployed and much more likely to have relatively higher incomes. Graduates with degrees in other fields such as education and communications are more likely to be unemployed and likely to earn relatively lower incomes. These are the college majors that will pay off the least.

Like virtually every other part of life, the U.S. college system now looks very differently than it did last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many colleges opted to offer only online instruction for the fall 2020 semester. Others decided to offer in-person classes in spite of the outbreak, only to report hundreds and even thousands of coronavirus cases among staff and students shortly after reopening the school. These are the colleges that reported spikes in COVID-19 cases after reopening.

Click here to see the 50 best colleges in America
Click here to read our methodology