These Are the Schools Most Worth Their Price, But Good Luck Getting In

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Payscale released its 2014 College ROI Report, in which it ranks United States colleges and universities based on their "return on investment." In other words, are you getting your money's worth (career-wise) out of those tuition dollars. Before you start salivating, though, be warned: the schools at the top are also among the hardest to get into.

There aren't too many surprises on the lists. The private school list is populated by pricy institutions with lofty reputations (three Ivies in the top 10, though none in the top five) and technology schools dominate, because that's where all the money is in the real world. 

Here are Payscale's top five private universities by ROI:


And the top five public schools:


Instead of simply using a school's tuition sticker price, Payscale calculated the price students (in this case, the class of 2013) actually pay, factoring in financial aid and graduation rates (four year vs. five, etc.), and compared it to projected 20-year earnings for graduates, using its own pay data. The result – ROI – is a school's monetary value in the long run. 

But what the Payscale report doesn't tell you is how likely it is that you'll score a spot in the freshman class. Harvey Mudd, the school with the highest ROI overall, admits just 19 percent of applicants, according to College Board. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (which needs no introduction), accepts only 8 percent. Stanford's microscopic acceptance rate is 6 percent.

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The public schools are slightly better – Cal-Berkley has an 18 percent acceptance rate, and the top two, Colorado School of Mines and Georgia Tech, have 36 and 41 percent acceptance rates respectively. Admissions data isn't readily available for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (we have a feeling only a very specific group of students is applying there, anyway), but it's definitely Missouri University of Science and Technology that's the easiest to get into, admitting more than 80 percent of applicants. 

Of course, keeping enrollment numbers tight also ensures good outcomes on the other end. When everyone of your students is almost guaranteed a good career, there's fewer rotten apples to drag down the average.

So the moral is that private schools will probably lead you to more money overall, but they're more expensive to begin with, and are, generally, more difficult to get into. Public schools have their own issues, though, as they make up the majority of Payscale's list of worst ROI schools. Again, because they tend to let in more people from all over the spectrum. 

It seems almost too obvious to say that if you want your college to pay off in the long run, aiming for the most selective school should be your first step. Of course, a lot of other people will probably get the same idea — which is why the school has to be so selective.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.