50 Best College Values

This list, compiled by Best College Values, represents 50 of the highest value options for high school students considering a college education. Each schools’s score is a weighted average of publicly available data such as cost (tuition and cost of living) over the average completion time of an undergraduate degree, rates of graduation and freshman retention, and average earnings versus non-degree holders. Cost for public schools is based on in-state tuition, which heavily affects value estimation to students eligible or ineligible for this status. These recommendations are meant as a preliminary research aid for students.

50 Columbia University, New York, NY – 120

Columbia University was founded by the British crown in 1754 as King College. Located in New York City this college was renamed Columbia in 1784. Out of the 55 founding fathers of the United States, five of them attended this University. In the 1940’s, faculty members laid the atomic research groundwork that eventually led to the creation of the Manhattan Project.

Ivy League schools may seem impractical at first glance. Columbia, for example, has just a 7% acceptance rate and comes with an average cost of over $200,000. This is mitigated somewhat in that nearly half of students receive financial aid. As expected, Columbia’s value comes from quality, rather than affordability. An impressive 85% of students graduate in 4 years, and go on to default on their student loans fewer than 2 times in 100. In today’s competitive job market, a degree from the school that awards the Pullitzer Prize is a powerful tiebreaker.

49 George Mason University, Fairfax, VA – 134

George Mason University is currently recognized for its strong economic, business, and law programs began as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1957. In 1972, gained the independent status that it enjoys today. Named after founding father, George Mason, this University is now one of the largest research facilities in the state of Virginia.

Sat on 700 acres in suburban Virginia, GMU is one of the most affordable choices on the list. It is a particularly good option for those interested in economics and business programs, recently producing two Nobel Laureates in those disciplines. On average, George Mason alumni enjoy a 15% annual return on their investment, placing it squarely in the top 2% of American universities.

48 University of Georgia, Athens, GA – 139

The University of Georgia was the first chartered University in the United States, and has been recognized as a Land Grant College for its agricultural research, and as a Sea Grant College for its marine biology programs, making it one of the first institutions in the country to gain both respective recognitions. While UGA is best known for its outstanding football team, it also features a lively music scene, hosting the nonprofit festival Athfest every fall.

Georgia scores high in terms of affordability, thanks if large part to a hefty public endowment. 5 out of 6 students receive some sort of financial aid, with the average award around $8,000. At an average cost per degree of $70,500, Georgia is one of the most accessible and attractive options in the Southeastern US.

47 Cornell University, Ithaca, NY – 143

Founded in Ithaca, New York by Senator Ezra Cornell in the year 1865, Cornell University is one of the most prestigious Ivy League universities within the United States. Ever an innovative campus, Cornell was one of the first University campuses to employ electric lighting by means of a water powered dynamo in the year 1883. Recently Eric Betzig and William Moerner, both Cornell University Alumni, have earned the Alfred Nobel Prize for their groundbreaking work in optical microscopy. Betzig and Moerer were able to push the light microscope past its previously known diffraction limits. On an international front, Cornell opened the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in 2004. This school is the first American medical school to be located outside of the United States, and it is also the first coeducational school of higher learning in Qatar.

No surprises here: Cornell’s value profile is strikingly similar to Columbia’s. High cost, High return with relatively little risk… if you can get in. 90% of students graduate in 4 years and see an average ROI of 14% annually. Cornell admits considerably more applicants than Columbia (14% vs. 7%). Beyond that, the difference likely comes down to expected major (Cornell is strongest in agricultural and veterinary sciences) and preference for upstate versus metropolitan New York.

46 Lafayette College, Easton, PA – 144

Lafayette College offers a small school experience in a suburban setting, with just 2,000 students, all undergrads, and a mere 51 degree programs offered. Alumni of the University have been known for and even presented with the prestigious Kidd Award for their volunteer efforts. Student of Lafayette College has recently taken on a project to grow organic gardens that will help to feed those in need both on campus and within the surrounding communities. In the past six years, Lafayette students have earned the most Goldwater Scholarships for liberal arts in the United States.

Lafayette comes off as a pretty expensive choice ($188,000 per degree) for a school without the name recognition of Ivy League options at similar price points, but the value is similar. 57% of students receive an average award of over $25,000, 86% graduate in 4 years, and it has been listed in the top 50 colleges by Forbes, US News and Payscale. One major value which is not immediately obvious is the prevalance of customized majors, allowing students with specific career goals to make themselves extra marketable.

45 Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, MO – 145

Located in Rolla, Missouri, the University originated in 1870 with the original name of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy. This is due to the fact that 70 percent of the whole nation’s zinc supply can be found in this area. Later, after being noted that the majority of the student were enrolling in engineering majors, the school was renamed the University of Missouri at Rolla (UMR). Finding that UMR was often being confused for another school, in 2008 the Institution finally adopted the name it holds today.

MST is an outstanding choice for engineering, computer science, and math students, one of only a few schools with an average ROI over 20%. Most students take more than 4 years to graduate, but the average cost still comes in under $85,000. Beyond that, a stunning 95% of students receive some sort of financial aid.

44 Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA – 151

Lehigh is known as one of the “Little Ivies”, schools that are lesser known than, but provide elite educations similar to the Ivy League. Lehigh’s social scene may appeal to the more conservative crowd, possibly a remnant of its ties to the Episcopal Church. They make a special effort to eliminate binge drinking on campus by offering a wide array of dry extracurricular options on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Deeply involved in the community, Lehigh University strives to reach out and offer their help and support to their neighbors. The South Side Initiative program is specially organized to help strengthen the bond between the University and the community by helping to reach the common goal of bettering Bethlehem. Community gardens have also been introduced to help those that are less fortunate.

As recently as 2010, Lehigh was ranked 12th in the country by The Wall Street Journal for college ROIs. The BCV formula clocks it at 16%, which is still very good, if not in the top 12 nationally. Lehigh lives up to its nickname with Ivy-like value numbers, but is significantly more accessible, with an acceptance rate of 31%.

43 Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN – 153

Purdue Airport was the first University owned airport in the United States. Amelia Earhart joined the faculty in 1935 as a consultant for flight courses taken by students, and two years later the University funded her famous attempted around the world flight. The Purdue Mall, located in the central quad, is home to many engineering marvels including the Purdue bell tower, the engineering fountain and even the entrance gate to the mall itself.

Purdue’s high value score comes from a high level of affordability and a nationally recognized specialty for engineering and aviation and aeronautics. Even more specifically, statistically there is no better place to train as an astronaut. At least one graduate from Purdue has been a crew member on thirty percent of all NASA space missions. It is ideal for any student looking to purdue hard sciences at a large school on a budget. On average, students graduate for under $90,000 and see an annual return of 17%.

42 College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ – 155

The College of New Jersey has been recognized as one of the top environmentally friendly campuses across the United States. With sheer determination, and eco-friendly policies the Institution is taking steps to completely neutralize their carbon footprint by the year 2040. The school is not only becoming more green in its energy consumption, it is making an effort to actually reforest the University and the surrounding areas.

TCNJ has been highly lauded considering its relatively low cost of around $100,000 per degree. Among them, US News and World Report ranks it the #1 public institution in the Northeastern US, Forbes calls it the best public college in New Jersey, and Bloomberg Businessweek cites the best undergraduate business program in New Jersey. While it is highly competitive, 72% of students graduate in four years, and in addition to its well known business school, Princeton Review praises its studies in the medical field.

41 Miami University, Oxford, OH – 158

Founded in the year 1809, Miami University is the tenth oldest public university in the United Stated. The current campus location in Oxford, Ohio was selected because of an act of Congress signed by the first President, George Washington. The act declared that any school should be located to the northwest of the Ohio River in the Miami Valley. Robert Frost once referred to this campus as “the most beautiful campus that ever there was” and the University students, and alumni alike strive to hold up to that standard today.

Miami if often thought of as somewhat elitist, and indeed ranks very low in terms of diversity. What gets lost is that Miami is consistently nationally ranked in academics, and costs considerably less than some would assume, at around $110,000 on average. Aside from its enviable setting in a mostly college town, annual ROI is solid at 13%, and Miami is a more than viable option for most, awarding some form of aid to two thirds of its students.

40 Grove City College, Grove City, PA – 160

Grove City College is the only school on the list described as a “Christian liberal arts college”. Originally called the Pine Grove Normal Acadamy in 1876 when it was founded by Isaac C Ketler, eight years later it adopted the name it is known by today. During World War II the Institution was one of the six in the country that was selected by the United States Navy to establish an Electronics training program for servicemen to take part in. The highlight of a new building project is the Christian Activities Building, Rathburn Hall, that has already been awarded the 2014 Palladio Award for its incredible design and construction.

For those interested in pursing higher education in a religious environment, Grove City prevents the need to sacrifice value: Average cost per degree is around $83,000 and alumni see a 10% ROI annually. GCC manages a top 40 value ranking, despite being one of only a small handful of schools that does not allow students to accept any Federal funding.

39 Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ – 172

Rutgers University is home to a lot of research discoveries in medicine, including Albert Schatz’s discovery of streptomycin. This antibiotic was the first treatment known to have any effect on tuberculosis, and is the discovery that landed Schatz the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1952. Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository has received many awards that will go toward funding gene discovery programs to diagnose, treat and work towards a cure for digestive diseases, kidney diseases, and diabetes.

In addition to biological and medical sciences, Rutgers is well known for its excellent business programs. It has been ranked in the top 20 by The Wall Street Journal in terms of matriculation to elite profressional and graduate programs, and by Forbes in terms of best public universities to get rich. Affordability is a plus, at under $110,000 per degree, and a 16% annual ROI.

38 Clemson University, Clemson, SC – 173

Founded in 1889 by Thomas Green Clemson, this University is an institution in South Carolina that has earned both Land Grant and Sea Grant status. During the Civil War, the current Clemson University campus grounds was one of the first major locations where military conflict took place. To this day the University still holds a strong military presence.

Clemson has been regularly ranked among public universities in the Unites States by US News and World Report, among others. This credit came under some scrutiny in 2009 when an administrator claimed Clemson staff had manipulated variables such as faculty salaries and gave competing universities arbitrarily low peer reviews. Nonetheless, the value numbers being what they are, Clemson comes in at #38 for averaging a 15% return on a 4 year education under $100,000, including a 90% rate of students receiving financial aid.

37 University of Delaware, Newark, DE – 173

The University of Delaware is one of the oldest institutions in the country. Founded in 1743 its original class was comprised of just ten students. Three of these students, James Smith, Thomas McKean, and George Read, have signatures that appear upon the Declaration of Independence. Students and Alumni of the University of Delaware alike make a sincere effort to engage themselves in the community and show that they care. Gardens have been planted on campus and the food that is being produced by them is all donated to local food banks to help feed those in need. There are also Engineering projects in the works to help Malawian communities that are struggling to have fresh water to drink.

Delaware is a relatively low cost option on the list of Public Ivies, sporting an adjusted cost of under $83,000 per degree. Alumni rate to return a respectable 12% of their investment annually, making it an attractive option for all, particularly those students looking to study in its well known College of Education.

36 University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, VA – 178

Established in 1908 in Virginia, this University was originally the State Normal and Industrial School for Woman at Fredricksburg. In 1938, the institution was renamed the Mary Washington College after the mother of the first President of the United States, Mary Ball Washington. The name that the University holds today was decided upon in 2004.

Mary Washington is most noteworthy for two things: first, it’s one of the cheapest high value options on the list, at around $73,000. Next, its history as a women’s only college is still reflected in its modern day student body, which is two thirds female. This may be intriguing to some women looking for a college experience in a more feminine oriented environment, as well as to some men looking to cut down on competition.

35 North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC – 181

The Distinguished institution of North Carolina State was established in 1887 and is located in Raleigh. Originally founded as the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, this school would change its name several times before settling on its current designation. A Land Grant University, the school has always had a focus on military tactics, agricultural, and mechanical arts. From a sustainability standpoint, North Carolina State University is a national leader. In 2008 the University Sustainability Office was launched with the goal of reducing the school’s annual energy consumption per square foot by four percent over a ten year period. The university has also surpassed the guidelines established by Executive Order 156 by reducing their solid waste stream by utilizing reuse and recycle initiatives.

NCSU boasts one of the better ROIs for schools in its price range, at 16% on a cost of just over $69,000. NC State attracts students interested in Engineering and in Agriculture, which makes plenty of sense. Less intuitively, it also offers highly regarded programs in Textiles and Design.

34 Queens College, Flushing, NY – 183

Established in 1937, Queens College was founded on the Flushing, Queens site where famous journalist and poet Walt Whitman once taught. During the Civil Rights period of the 1960s, Queens College students were known participants in famous marches such as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Tragically, Andrew Goodman and two other activist students were slain whilst trying to help African Americans register to vote in the south during this period.
One of only seven Honors Colleges in the City of New York’s CUNY system, this university offers a notably challenging curriculum.

Queens College was named ninth of the top regional public universities in the northern United States by U.S. News. Queens College has also been a known as a pioneering institution for AIDS research. In the 1990s, famed French virologist Luc Montagnier joined the school’s faculty. Queens also claims the coveted lowest average cost per degree on the list at around $40,000, making it one of the cheapest ways to exist in New York.

33 Rice University, Houston, TX – 189

Rice University was established as an institution in 1912. Initially established by Massachusetts businessman William Marsh Rice, the school was intended to be constructed upon the entrepreneur’s death. Unfortunately Mr. Rice was murdered nine years later by his lawyer who attempted to steal the late businessman’s fortune which included the financial backing for the school’s growth. Luckily, the plot was discovered and the money allocated to the funding of what was to be called the Rice Institute.

While maintaining an 81% 4-year graduation rate, Rice University is at the forefront of research and development for the United States. Located in Houston, Texas, Rice is consistently ranked in the top twenty of United States Colleges, and amongst the top one hundred globally. Rice has applied science programs for cutting edge fields such as nanotechnology, artificial organ research and oncology. Recent discoveries made at Rice may lead to an overall weakening of the cancer phenotype.

32 University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI – 191

The popular satirical newspaper, “The Onion” found its roots in the halls of this university in 1988. In the research field, the first isolated and cultured embryonic stem cells were created at this school. In the 2014 QS World University Rankings, the University of Wisconsin, Madison was ranked 37th of the world’s institutions

Wisconsin had the third highest research investment in the country in 2012, at $1.1 billion, earning it very high research activity status in Carnegie’s Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Students graduate for under $84,000 on average and see an annual return of 16%.

31 University of Texas, Austin, TX – 203

The flagship institution of its University system, The University of Texas, Austin was founded in 1883. This university is as large as one might expect from the Lone Star State, located on 423 acres in Austin, a huge designation in an urban setting. Among the campus’ many assets available to students are seven museums and seventeen libraries.

Admission to UT is categorized as more selective. However, Texas high school students in the top 10% of their high school class gain nearly automatic admission to the University according to a Texas law. UT is best known for its prestige in Architecture, Business, and Engineering, ranking in the top 10 nationally according to US News and World Report in the last several years (2nd, 7th and 9th, respectively).

30 Brigham Young University, Provo, UT – 211

Brigham Young, whose name is virtually synonymous with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the largest religious university in the United States. The school was established in 1875 by LDS church president Brigham Young. Young purchased an existing school in Provo, Utah with the intent of creating an institution in which members of his church could learn without the “pernicious atheistic influences” found in other collegiate institutions of the time.

While it is not a requirement that a BYU student be Mormon, 98% of them are. Mormon or not, students are expected (and may face dismissal) to uphold a behavioral code which includes abstaining from extramarital sex and drugs and alcohol. For those willing and/or drawn to spend their college years on the straight and narrow, BYU offers massive affordability through church subsidies, resulting in a mammoth 21% average annual ROI.

29 Babson College, Wellesley, MA – 221

It’s all business at Babson, literally. All students at BC set out to complete a Bachelor’s of Science in Business, with concentrations declared during senior year. Babson’s international efforts through its Babson Global initiative are laudable. Using the same principals established by its founder, Babson Global’s goal is to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in various international populations using techniques such as eLearning and social innovation incubation in countries like Malaysia.

All this focus on business has resulted in Babson holding a #1 rank from Money Magazine as well as a #1 rank in entrepreneurship from US News and World Report for 21 consecutive years. It’s no small investment, at a cost of around $200,000 per degree, but for those who can hang, the degree is worth upwards of $1.15 million over 30 years.

28 Manhattan College, New York, NY – 222

Manhattan College was originally established in 1853 as the Academy of the Holy Infancy in Manhattan by the De La Salle Christian Brothers. This reputable school eventually took up permanent residence in the Riverdale section of the Bronx almost seventy years later in 1922. Unique to this school was the existence of Manhattan Prep which was an attached High School located on the Manhattan college campus. Unfortunately, due to budget, Manhattan Prep closed its doors in 1971. Today, Manhattan College is well known for its student’s dedication to humanitarian causes. International aid projects have sent Manhattan College students to places such as El Salvador and Haiti in recent months. Both projects helped provide things like clean water and social programs for the beleaguered citizens of both countries.

Manhattan balances a strong Roman Catholic affiliation with a prevalence of Greek life, offering a balanced social life to students interested in keeping religious during college. In a value nutshell, Manhattan is a little more expensive, but boasts a strong ROI, and students receive a lot of financial help, over $13,000 on average.

27 University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA – 224

The fourth oldest academic institution in the United States, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) was formed in 1740, starting as a preaching hall and then becoming a charity school for children in the Philadelphia area. In 1743, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin had a vision for the building to be used as the cornerstone of a new academic institution. Campaigning for the creation of his “Public Academy of Philadelphia” took another eight years. In 1751, the Academy of Philadelphia was finally opened. Eventually merging with the Academy and College of Philadelphia in 1791, the school received its current name and location. Today this institution still makes collegiate history. In 1921, The University of Pennsylvania was the first United States Institution to award a pH.D to an African American woman. UPenn is also one of the leading schools in the United States for research, boasting 165 research centers and a science faculty of over four thousand.

The names change but the Ivy League game stays the same: High cost, high return, low risk. UPenn earns its extra spots on the list for a higher adjusted ROI, and makes its already elite degrees even more marketable through a highly utilized dual degree program and a University policy of allowing all enrolled students to take classes from any of its colleges.

26 University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT – 225

Another Land Grant and Sea Grant college, the University of Connecticut (UConn) was founded in 1881 as the Storrs Agricultural School. Eventually renamed to the University of Connecticut in 1939, the school now is comprised of six unique campuses: Storrs, Avery Point, Stamford, Greater Hartford, Westerbury, and Torrington. Currently the UConn libraries are amongst the largest public research depositories in the state of Connecticut. Due to being situated in a fairly agricultural area, the University of Connecticut campus is one of the few in the nation that is fully self-sufficient.

UConn has one of the highest freshman retention rates in the country, as over 93% freshman fans of environmentalism and college basketball return for a sophomore year.

25 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC – 261

The University of North Carolina, located in Chapel Hill was chartered in 1789, making it one of the oldest public universities in the United States. The most notable image that can be seen at the University of North Carolina campus today is the Old Well, a smaller version of the one that can be found in the Gardens of Versailles.

Surprisingly, Tar Heels enjoy one of the lowest adjusted costs per degree of any public university on the list, at $68,000. Three quarters of UNC students graduate in 4 years and earn an extra quarter million dollars per thirty years.

24 Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY – 267

Over the years Stony Brook University has been the home of many important discoveries and research projects. Some of the most notable discoveries include a link between smoking and emphysema, the first MRI image on a living organism, and finding the cause of Lyme Disease. Three professors at Stony Brook University have been awarded for their contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and two professors in the last three years have won Nobel prizes.

The youngest child of the State University of New York, Stony Brook performs like it has something to prove. It is nationally ranked for programs in nuclear physics, social work and clinical psychology. Students see a booming average return of 21% on a very affordable college investment.

23 University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN – 267

The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic research institution the was founded by Father Edward Sorin in 1842. Originally an all male school located in Indiana, the University first allowed woman to enroll in 1972. Alumni from the University include well known talk show hosts such as Regis Philbin and Phil Donahue and former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Today the University continues to make breakthroughs in multiple fields of research. A notable milestone was achieved by former graduate, Jerome J. Green, when he became the first American to transmit a wireless message. The University of Notre Dame’s LOBUND Laboratory played a huge role in bone marrow research, including researching treatments for Hodgkins disease, leukemia, and prostate and colon cancer.

Notre Dame has an Ivy League price tag and the value to go with it. Many scholarships are available to Catholic students, and over half of students receive an average aid of nearly $25,000. Notre Dame has one of the most academically focused cultures on the list, being the only one with a four year graduation rate in the 90s.

22 Duke University, Durham, NC – 271

Duke University was originally founded by Methodists and Quakers from the town now known as Trinity in 1838. The University went through three more name changes before settling on Duke University as an honor to the Duke family’s generous donations. The 37th President of the United States, Richard Nixon, is among the notable alumni of Duke University. An accomplishment worth mentioning is the unveiling of the world’s first working invisibility cloak in 2006. The University has pioneered research studies and made discoveries such as the world’s first three dimensional ultrasound system. The Institution has also been involved in the research for a new AIDS vaccine that surfaced in 2006.

Duke undergraduates divide into a college of Arts and Sciences and the Pratt school of Engineering. Both are highly selective, and students planning for law or medical school rank in the top few for matriculation to elite graduate schools. Contrary to the country club perception, talented applicants receive plenty of financial help, and the school was ranked #1 by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education for integration of African American students and staff.

21 Stanford University, Stanford, CA – 275

Stanford University is an institution in California that was founded by former Californian Governor Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Lathrop Standford in 1885. The University served as a memorial to their son who died at the age of fifteen only a year prior. Over the years, many who do research at the University have been awarded for their efforts with honors such as the Nobel Prize.

Among college acceptance letters, Stanford is the ultimate bragging right. Last year a mere 5% of students were accepted, a record low for the University. The name itself may be intimidating to lower income students, but thanks in part to the best fundraising performance in the country, 63% of students gain access to an average financial aid of over $32,000. Average ROI comes in at a hefty 20% considering the sticker price of the degree.

20 James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA – 275

Founded in 1908 as the State Normal and Industrial school for Woman at Harrisonburg, the Institution was located in Virginia within the Shenandoah Valley. In 1938, the University was renamed Madison College in honor of the fourth president of the United States, James Madison, and finally in 1977 it attained the name it is known by today. James Madison University (JMU) first enrolled men in this college during the year 1946. James Madison University is often recognized for its environmental standpoint and commitment to being a model green institution. In 2014, JMU’s Hillside Naturalization Project was honored with the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.

JMU is known for its affordability and widely recognized as one of the highest value public institutions in the country. Historically a teachers’ college, JMU has recently become known for its outstanding business school as well. Also worth considering, James Madison students often find themselves on rankings of the happiest college kids.

19 University of California, Los Angeles, CA – 284

The prestigious University of California at Los Angeles, often referred to as UCLA, was founded in 1919. This institution is the second largest in the University of California system. The campus is considered one of the most beautiful in the country, full of fountains, museums, and gardens. The Sunken garden is a very memorable garden that is lined with ficus and sycamore trees. During the past one hundred years, UCLA has been pushing forward to attain seemingly unattainable goals in research and development. The fight has paid off as alumni and faculty, along with Al Gore, are known to have helped create the internet. Over one hundred companies have been established because of research done at the university.

UCLA rolls a southern California lifestyle, top 10 academic rankings in psychology, arts and history, and a price tag of just over $100,000 together to create a dream package for prospective students and their parents. Over half of students receive financial aid to the tune of around $10,000, and alumni see an annual ROI of 17%.

18 University of Washington, Seattle, WA – 291

The University of Washington is home to one of the best medical schools in the world, so future doctors could do worse than to receive their undergraduate degree in house. The library system of this incredible institution is the eighteenth largest in the United States, and Washington is currently involved in a green up program. The University has created a clean action team and has made the steps to make sure all purchased energy is from renewable sources. New residential buildings are expected to be built in the near future and all constructions are promised to meet with silver or gold LEED standards.

Washington is recognized as one of the best public values for alumni salary to cost. At a cost of under $85,000 and an average ROI of 19%, UW graduates may be among the happiest people to come out of Seattle. And while they are known as Huskies, the student body is one of the most active in the nation.

17 Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH – 291

Dartmouth College is an Ivy League University that is located in the Upper Valley region of New Hampshire. Established in 1769 by Putitan minister Eleazar Wheelock, this institution was one of the nine colonial colleges that existed before the American Revolution. It was not until 1970, when the University began to accept female students into their undergrad program. Dartmouth college has been ranked one of the top technological institutions in the world. Many well known companies have spawned from the minds of the alumni of Dartmouth College, including IBM, Pillsbury, General Electric, Hasbro, Hallmark, and NBC.

Dartmouth is the third highest value choice in the Ivy League, with an average degree cost under $200,000 and a 19% ROI. It is most appealing to students looking for a remote setting and to pursue an undergraduate degree in Economics or Political Science, both of which are top ranked programs on the planet.

16 Texas A&M University, College Station, TX – 327

Established in 1876, Texas A&M University originally went by the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, and is one of the six total senior military colleges in the United States. Until 1974, only white males were permitted to attend this University and every undergraduate was required to be a member of the Corps of cadets. Texas A&M University’s main campus is one of the largest in the United States and home to the George Bush Presidential Library. This university is at the cutting edge of many research projects, and has achieved many accomplishments because of their efforts. Scientists at this university were the first to create a cloned pet cat named CC in 2001. They were also the first to create a clone of a cow, a goat, a deer, a horse, and a pig. To fulfill United States President George W. Bush’s Global Nuclear Threat Reduction, the institution completed the first low enriched uranium fueled nuclear research reactor. The reactor contained only twenty percent uranium instead of the highly enriched eighty percent of previous reactors.

Texas A&M is highly affordable and boasts the highest yet adjusted ROI at 23%. The Wall Street Journal found in 2nd most favorable to employers in key professions, and it is widely praised for its promotion of community service and social mobility. LGBT or more liberal students looking for a relaxed college experience may do well to look elsewhere, as TAMU has such dubious top ten rankings as “most socially conservative” and “least friendly to LGBT”.

15 University of Florida, Gainesville, FL – 338

Another Land, Sea, and Space Grant University, the University of Florida was founded in 1853 in Gainesville, Florida.
The University of Florida is one of the largest research institutions in the United States. The University takes part in the more rare research topics such as citrus population. Having more lightning than any other state in the United States, scientists at the University of Florida are part of one of the world’s top lightning research teams.

UF is the most affordable 4-year university on the list, at $63,000. For those looking for the quintessential college experience, Florida consistently finds itself cited as one of the top party schools in the country. For those who like money, it also boasts a 19% ROI. Florida is especially well known for programs in Education, Business and Occupational Therapy.

14 Harvard University, Cambridge, MA – 347

The University was named after its first benefactor, John Harvard, and is well known to be the oldest institute of higher learning in the United States. The Harvard University Library is the oldest in the United States and the largest private library in the world. Eight United States Presidents have graduated Harvard University. Recently, Harvard stem cell researchers have announced a major breakthrough in their research to find more effective treatment for diabetes. For the first time, scientists were able to produce human insulin producing beta cells to the extent that with cell transplantation they would function like normal beta cells. Currently the University is conducting trials and hopes to take this breakthrough to the next step.

The Holy Grail of college educations, recipients of a Harvard degree may find the biggest barrier to employment to be proof that they aren’t lying. Harvard is one of the most selective few colleges in the world, and accepted a record low 5.8% of students last year. Many students dismiss it as a viable option without any research, a huge mistake for low income students, for whom Harvard makes extreme provisions through the world’s largest endowment. Students who can get in, and whose families make less than $60,000 a year, attend Harvard free of charge.

13 Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY – 349

Scientists at Binghamton University are at the forefront of energy research and breakthrough technology. Recently the Institution received a grant from the government to help fund this research and push forward to make new discoveries. Development of the lithium ion battery has already been completed, and scientists are working hard to find new advances in energy production, storage, and use.

Binghamton is recognized as a Public Ivy and one of the top up-and-coming schools anywhere. It is best known for programs in Math and Business, although it has a especially noteworthy partnership with the Southern Tier Center on Aging, which students interested in later-stage nursing may find interesting.

12 Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA – 356

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was established in 1872 and is better known today by the name Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech Scientists are working on a number of innovative research projects. One project focuses on improving brain cancer treatments and scientists are currently working out ways to kill the brain tumor and get life saving drugs to the location in the brain where they will be able to make a difference. Another notable project is a ranking that has been created by researchers at the university to determine the safety of helmets that are said to reduce the risk of concussions and head injuries.

Virginia Tech offers a world class education at an affordable price, a 22% ROI, and a very high research designation. Many people know it for having many elite engineering programs, but VA Tech’s College of Wildlife and Forestry programs are second to none.

11 University of Maryland, College Park, MD – 358

The University of Maryland is located in the town of College Park and was established in 1857. A fire that was most likely caused by faulty electrical wiring started in 1912. No one was injured, but the majority of the academic buildings and student housing was destroyed. A compass is now located where the center of the old campus would have been with lines pointing to all the buildings that were destroyed. It is rumored that anyone crossing over “the point of fail” will not graduate. As an honor to the late alumni member, Jim Henson, a memorial statue of him with his famous Kermit the Frog creation is situated on a park bench in a garden on campus. The University of Maryland is playing a key role in the crucial research of the Ebola vaccination. Human trials are currently underway and University scientists expect a quick response to the results, if we aren’t all dead by then.

Maryland offers a special opportunity to students who hope to eventually start a business, a program called Hinman CEOs, in which students across various disciplines live together and enjoy special guidance and resources for potential business ventures. The most successful of these can expect their degree to return more than the alumni average of 20%.

10 University of Illinois, Champaign, IL – 369

Established in 1857, the University of Illinois is an intensive research institution that is located in Champaign, Illinois. The library system on campus is one of the largest, most extensive systems in the world. The University has been on the cutting edge of research since 1867. Researchers at the Institution were involved with major medical breakthroughs such as robot transplant surgery. In addition, the staff and alumni have created many recognizable companies over the years such as PayPal, Yelp, Firefox, BitTorrent, and Delta Airlines.

U of I is one of the more expensive public universities, at an average degree cost of just over $100,000. However, ROI is squarely in line at 21%. Illinois is ranked highest for programs in computer science and engineering as well as accounting.

9 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI – 379

Originally located in Detroit, the University of Michigan is a research institution that was established in 1817. Ann Arbor was later decided to be a better home for the University and it officially changed locations in 1837. The University of Michigan has been a leading contributor to the medical field with contributions like the gastroscope, EKG, and the Polio vaccination. The Institution is now opening a new research complex where scientists can study biotechnology, nanotechnology, and many other fields. The facility will also include a tissue culture laboratory to grow cells for blood disease and cancer research.

U of M is one of the most widely known of the prestigious public universities. The cost difference for in-state versus out of state is marked, however, upwards of 75% of students receive some sort of financial aid, including many need based awards.

8 Princeton University, Princeton, NJ – 383

One of the nine colonial colleges established before the American Revolution, Princeton has an acclaimed history. Founded in Elizabeth in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, the institution moved twice before finally moving to Princeton, New Jersey in 1896 and taking on the town’s name. Originally conceived as a training ground for Presbyterian ministers, the school shifted towards a stronger academic focus during the American Revolution. In recent news, Princeton has been testing the SPIDER satellite, which was created on-campus by students. The satellite will observe the polarization of background microwave radiation. Using this data, earthbound scientists will be able to piece together a picture of how the universe behaved in its infancy.

Princeton has the highest adjusted value in the Ivy League, sporting a 21% ROI and an average 30 year degree value of about $1.4 million. 57% of students receive an average financial aid package of $32,500, aiding in its students reporting the greatest satisfaction with financial aid of any school, as well as ranking in the top several happiest colleges.

7 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA – 391

One of the Northeast’s most well known institutions is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also known as M.I.T. Founded in 1861, as a reaction to the increased industrialization that was happening during that period, M.I.T. has remained in the forefront of technological advancement. Researchers at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at M.I.T. have discovered a new means of detecting the early warning signs of cancer in patients. Another research item being developed at this school is a means to engineer Anthrax to deliver cancer drugs in humans.

MIT is commonly known as one of the most challenging academic institutions in the world. To help relieve some of the stress for new students, first year classes are graded on a pass/fail, rather than a letter grade system, leading to a high freshman retention rate for such a lofty proposition. Cost, finacial aid prospects, and degree value are all similar to Princeton, with a slightly better return for those interested in engineering disciplines.

6 California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA – 414

The California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) was established in Pasadena during the westward American expansion, by local politician Amos Throop in 1891. Cal Tech has produced and employed some of the sharpest minds in the world and has been home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 1936. During the beginning of the 20th century, famed physicist Albert Einstein was a professor at Cal Tech. During his tenure there, he refined his famous theory of relativity. Cal Tech, while known for its academics also has a notorious reputation for the pranks that its students engage in. In 1987 Cal Tech Students subtly altered the famous Hollywood sign to read “Cal Tech”. Typically, such acts of frivolity are discouraged by the administration, but in this institution the joking is fully embraced. Most recently students travelled east to New York City, where as a prank, “The Cube” sculpture in Greenwich Village was altered to resemble “The Weighted Companion Cube” from game producer Valve’s “Portal” series.

While it is on the more expensive side, Cal Tech’s graduates enjoy some of the highest salaries out of school, leading to a 25% ROI, the highest so far on the list. Undergraduate programs ranked highest are in engineering and physical sciences.

5 Harvey Mudd College, Claremont, CA – 430

Founded in Claremont, California in 1955, Harvey Mudd College is fairly new compared to some of the more established universities in the United States. Named after principal investor, industrialist, and mining magnate Harvey Seeley Mudd, this institution was chartered eight months after its namesake’s death. Birthed during a period of national space fervor, Harvey Mudd College’s focus on astrophysics and space exploratory programs has been the school’s chief point of pride.

Harvey Mudd is one of the smallest colleges, with an undergraduate body of just 800 students, nearly a third of whom are National Merit Scholars. The College concerns itself mostly with educating scientists and mathematicians, and a Harvey Mudd degree has the highest 30 year value anywhere, at around $1.7 million.

4 University of California, Berkeley, CA – 445

Founded shortly after the gold rush of the late 1800s, the University of California, Berkley (UC Berkeley) opened up its doors in Oakland, California in 1869. Embracing research as a primary doctrine, UC Berkeley has led the way in many fields. Vitamin E was discovered on this campus, and the first flu virus was identified at UC Berkeley in 1933.
Currently there are seven Nobel Laureates, 32 MacArthur Fellows and 4 Pulitzer Prize winners among the faculty. Money Magazine ranked UC Berkeley as the thirteenth out of 1500 colleges ranked nationally. Also recently cosmologist George Smoot, one of the aforementioned Nobel Laureates, and his team acquired some of the earliest images of the universe.

A Cal Berkeley degree is worth about $1 million over 30 years and is relatively inexpensive, for an annual ROI of 24%. It is especially high value for its versatility, being ranked in the top 10 nationally for a myriad of subjects. Simply stated, it s the cheapest high value option for students who want to study in southern California.

3 Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA – 451

Many changes occurred in the U.S. south after the tumultuous Civil War. During this period, in 1888, what was then called the Georgia School of Technology (Georgia Tech) was established. Focused on the development of new ideas for the increasingly industrialized nation, this institution initially was primarily an engineering school. As technology progressed, more technological course loads were added, culminating in the eventual renaming of the school to its current iteration in 1948. Consistently Georgia Tech has ranked amongst the top universities in the nation. Georgia Tech has awarded more engineering degrees to women than any other school since 2007.

Georgia Tech has a strikingly low four year graduation rate, just 32%. Nonetheless, it has an astronomical average annual ROI, a double-take inducing 37% thanks to a low degree cost of about $76,000. Students also have unique opportunities at the school due to Georgia Tech being very well linked to outside tech-oriented business, boasting one of the best internship programs in the country.

2 College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA – 534

Named for King William III and Queen Mary II, this college can trace its roots back to 1693 when it was established as a colonial college by the crown of England. Originally designed to educate both Native Americans and the children of colonists, this school is the second oldest college stateside. This institution is also the first known college to have its own “secret society”. In 1750 the “Flat Hat Club” came into existence and was the model for many for many other clandestine societies of its ilk across the nation’s collegiate system.

William and Mary is an extremely affordable option among the Public Ivies, and ranks particularly high for undergraduate teaching. Unlike most schools of similar size, virtually all classes are taught by professors, rather than teaching assistants. Number two overall, William and Mary is the highest value choice for students hoping to land a career in government or public service.

1 University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA – 670

The University of Virginia, a famous research university in Charlottesville, Virginia, that was founded in 1819. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and James Madison all served on the institution’s first board of visitors. Thomas Jefferson himself is often attributed as one of the founders of the college since its origins can be directly traced to his “Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” of 1779. Jefferson also corresponded with other architects about the building of campus features such as the “Academical Village”. Most amazingly, during a horrible fire in 1895 Virginia students carried a one ton marble statue of Thomas Jefferson out of the rotunda, ensuring its survival today. In 1991, U.S. World Reports ranked the University of Virginia as the number one ranked public university in the nation. The school was also named the country’s “most important architectural ensemble” by the American Institute of Architects. University of Virginia scientists are working towards innovative stem cell research breakthroughs and hope that this research will lead to replicating organs for human transplant in the near future.

UVA ranks first among public schools for placement in elite graduate programs, not including its own graduate schools, many of which rank in the top ten nationally. Its 85% four year graduation rate is the highest among public universities inside the US. Over the entire history of US News and World Report’s rankings, Virginia has been the highest ranked school in Virginia and in the top two public institutions nationally. Quite a feat, considering an average degree cost of $81,000. For those looking for an even more extreme value, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation offers full ride scholarships through a competition among students nominated by their high schools.