Which College Offers The "Best Bang" For Your Tuition Buck?

Tyler Durden's picture

Is making the investment in a college education still worth it? How much debt can you expect to have after you graduate, and how much money will you make in your career?

As HowMuch.net details, Nitrocollege.com crunched the numbers from the top twenty public and top twenty private schools in the country and created a visualization to find out. The data was extracted from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. News & World Report

We ranked each school according to the median salary someone can expect to earn ten years after enrolling. We then looked at the median student debt graduates typically carry. Focusing on median debt and median earnings makes a lot of sense - half of all students fall above these numbers, and half fall below. We then color-coded each school in a floating bar chart, making the private schools blue and the public schools yellow.

Several things immediately jump out of this visualization.

First off, private schools dominate the top half of the list while public schools by and large fall to the bottom. Graduates from private universities simply earn more money, which suggests that attending a private school pays off in the long run.

Source: HowMuch.net

Top Five Universities by Median Salary 10 Years after Enrollment

  • Harvard - $95,500
  • MIT - $89,200
  • Stanford - $86,000
  • University of Pennsylvania - $$79,700
  • Princeton - $77,900

Something else stands out about our visualization: Harvard students take on significantly less debt compared to their peers from Ohio State. Nobody thinks Harvard is cheaper than Ohio State, right? More to the point, Harvard grads make more than twice as much money. From a financial perspective, it is by far and away the best school. In fact, the 11 universities with the lowest debt loads are all private. This suggests that many students come from wealthy families who can afford to pay the tuition without taking out loans. Perhaps this also affects their career outcomes.

Consider another way to look at the data. Suppose you want to find the best bang for your buck - you want the highest earning potential with the lowest possible debt, but you also want to avoid paying private school tuition. Where should you go?

The University of California, Berkeley offers the best opportunity. Graduates have the highest earning potential of all public schools at $60,800 with the lowest debt burden of $14,200.

There’s a lot that goes into picking the right school. You have to decide how much debt you are comfortable carrying, and ask yourself if the future earning potential is worth it. The most important factor you should consider, however, is how much you are willing to pay for the life-defining experiences that come with a college degree.

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LindseyNarratesWordress's picture

With robots coming to take  "almost" every job, including as news-paper- and article-writers, attorneys, and even accountants, a literal civil-war coming, inevitably, and, then, (((The Final-War))), across our entire planet, there is NO FUCKING POINT in going to university--not now.


You people out there "in-the-world" had better wrap-your-minds-around-the-FACT that we are fucking DOOMED, unless and until a very large number within this fucking joke-of-a-society realize that we are, literally, under-assault by malefactors, whom couldn't-care-less what happens to ANY OF US, and begin to work, TOGETHER, EN-MASSE, to reverse what is intended for our collective-future.


Truth is truth, and facts are facts, regardless of what we WANT those truths, and facts, to be.


boattrash's picture

Short answer...The School of Hard-Knocks.

Paul Kersey's picture

Forget debt, and let's talk about cost. It cost me $240,000 to send my oldest daughter through Duke. When she graduated as an earth science major, she was making over $7,300 a month, working at a summer job for a big oil company.

She then went to a mid-western university for her masters in Geology, and they paid her to go there. She got that degree just in time for the oil bust. She couldn't buy a job.

Then she went to the San Francisco and paid $12,000 to attend a three month coding boot camp. They told her to expect to make $80,000 a few months after completing the course. She got a job for $55,000 with a start-up that went bust in six months. A month after that, she landed a job making $110,000 a year writing algorithms for an international company. The $240,000 and four years at Duke were total wastes of money and time.

If you're wondering if that Duke degree helped her land the job she has now, the answer is that it didn't help her at all. She went through three interviews, and, in the last interview, she had to solve a complex algorithmic problem. That Duke earth sciences degree was no help for that.

The moral of the story is that well paying future jobs are moving targets, and what one studies in college today, might be obsolete tomorrow. Careful about going into debt for jobs that may or may not exist in the future.

boattrash's picture

Thanks for that post. It sounds like your daughter will do well, regardless. I fully get your point, the jobs are certainly moving targets.

pitz's picture

Top grads in subjects like Electrical/Computer Engineering can't even get job interviews unless they have big connections inside the tech companies.  So your daughter actually did quite well. 

Duc888's picture



Is that because of H1-B visa holders taking the jobs?  just curious.

pitz's picture

Yup.  Well its a matter of the big tech companies hiring people in 2nd or 3rd year on the OPT visa schemes, as many as they can, to get cheap/free labour.  Americans not being eligible for the OPTs or being simply unwilling to work for free as the OPTs often do.  When they graduate, of course they're going to want as many back as possible on H-1Bs.  So the firms focus nearly all of their recruiting efforts on such individuals. 

Essentially one's career destiny, at least within the SV tech industry is determined before one's even done the upper-year subjects.   American students who have a more "normal" life of going back home in the summers, spending time with their family and friends, maybe working at a summer job or in the family small business, even if they're highly skilled and talented, are basically doomed. 

Never One Roach's picture

<< Is that because of H1-B visa holders taking the jobs?  just curious.>>


Yes ... and blacks. My neighbors Chinese kid with tip top grades went to his school's job fair and was blatantly told by two tech companies they are only hiring blacks since they are required to fill some quota. He got a hard lesson in AA right there and then and almost came home crying...but he did land an excellent job with great salary at a company that still values excellence and hard work.

Most Asian Americans still don't understand that AA hurts them the most. So voting Democrat is like putting yourself out of a job.

MANvsMACHINE's picture

If you're black, you should procreate with an Asian and vice versa. It's a win win for your kids.

Gavrikon's picture

Why would any Asian want to procreate with a retard level subhuman?

evokanivo's picture

this is simply not true. google, microsoft, amazon, etc are all hiring and do on-campus initial screening interviews. they hire a bunch of CE/CSE grads directly out of the gate. what you say is increasingly true for EE though.

pitz's picture

The major schools can only substantiate roughly 30-40% of their grads finding jobs.  Sure, they do on-campus interviews, but only at a very small number of schools.  Curiously the hiring rates match up well with the proportions of foreign nationals who attend those schools in those programs.

If you look at the post-grad surveys from schools like Berkeley, for instance, those companies only take a handful of students.  In most cases, former interns.

political_proxy's picture

You blew a quater mil on an "earth science major" degree??

understandable, most people paid a heavy price for being a dupe

Paul Kersey's picture

"most people paid a heavy price for being a dupe"

I didn't blow that money on myself, I blew it on my daughter. When she was at Duke, oil prices were in the stratosphere. If I'm a dupe, it's because I never saw the black swan oil price bust coming. My only consolation was that I sold my energy stocks to pay for her education. In other words, I would have lost the money anyway, and my daughter wouldn't have had what will probably be the four best years of her life.

Some of us will spend money on our kids that we would never spend on ourselves. My parents did the same for me, even though my formal college education taught me nothing about making it in the real world. However, those college years were great years. And, as I get older, I have learned that no matter how much money one has, one only has a finite amount of time. I'll take great experiences over luxury cars and expensive toys, any day.

Never One Roach's picture

Plus, it is good training for whatever you do later imo but sad that is not directly applicable. It's like my neighbor's daughter who dropped out of med school after three years because she decided she didn't like it leaving the parents holding the $165k loan bag.



ET's picture

Continuing education is the moral of the story.

a Smudge by any other name's picture

Wow. She sounds brilliant. Complex algos aren't something you walk out of 3 months boot camp doing. This has me chuckling. All the money you spent "educating" her and you could have just let her wander out the back door and start learning. No telling where she'd have ended up. Possibly right where she is now.

MsCreant's picture


What you write has merit.

I think she will take everything with her as she evolves. She will be cultured and polished in ways that are hard to define. You might not see the payoff in immeadiate dollars, but I feel strongly, in her case, it was not ALL entirely a waste. It will appear later as an asset in an unexpected situation. Might take 20 years to show up. Meanwhile her brain got pushed and pulled in ways that made it so that she could, eventually, take in the training that landed that job at the international company. They were impressed. All her training went into that. 

Please be proud of her and her time at Duke. You have done a great job and she is not saddled with debt. I don't mean to negate your point, it is a good one. It would make me sad to think that you let this weigh you down about her and her future. 

My kid is having a hard time of it just now, he has no debt, he has his degree, but the job scene is not so great just now. I am worried and trying to stay out of it. I send food and sit and watch on the sidelines. He is bright and a bit of a Dudley-do-right, to his detriment. Doing part time jobs trying to put it together to pay his rent. Each month has been a nail biter. Gotta let them go though. 

Pool Shark's picture


Education is not a destination, it is a process.

Over the years I have worked with many successful people who aren't working anywhere near the subject matter of their degrees.

A great education teaches you how to think, not what to think. That way you can adapt to any environment. Employers don't want robots who can regurgitate facts; they want problem solvers who can function and be creative in an ever-changing environment.

I myself am on my third career, but while my current practice of law has nothing whatsoever to do with engineering; I constantly draw on my past experiences in solving design problems.

Paul & Ms., it sounds like your kids will do just fine.


My Days Are Getting Fewer's picture

A lot of wisdon in what you wrote.  Some people have the aptitude to run their own business.  Many do not.  With future jobs being moving targets, those with business-running skills should direct their own future.  Waiting for someone to hire you is passive and unrewarding.  Every person has strengths and weaknesses.  Try to figure out what you a good at and make the most of that talent.

PT's picture

But which jobs will not be taken by either robots or H1-Bs?

boattrash's picture

The newer vessels do have some very complex technology/systems, as well as a lot of automation. But believe me, they are a maintenance nightmare some/most of the time.

I don't look for a robot to replace me at sea, but I may see task specific robots to do a task for me and I'll end up repairing/maintaining it as well.

Never One Roach's picture

<<But which jobs will not be taken by either robots or H1-Bs?>>

Plastic surgery for one I think. Maybe bone doctors are safe also.
FoggyWorld's picture

Then go crazy getting all the loans you can because if you are right, you won't have to pay much of it back.

EddieLomax's picture

All those robots run off energy, and require design, manufacture and ongoing maintenance.

The only way those robots will replace masses of people is if they are cheaper to run, hence there will always be jobs.

The real place we should be looking is where we as a society are going, an aging population means we need less accountants and automated burger stands and more care home nurses.  Both the left and right in government have a solution to that, we import more unskilled workers to keep prices low, I say we don't import them and don't then have a growing elderly population problem.

LindseyNarratesWordress's picture

I just do not think, at-times, that there are enough people intelligent-enough, and aware-enough, to see REALITY for what it, truly, is, and that, literally, keeps me awake.



boattrash's picture

As a Merchant Mariner, 10 years after "enrollment", with reasonable intelligence, and a strong work ethic, you can be well into the 6 figure income level, have no debt, and a chunk-of-change tucked away from earning a good, living wage from day one.

a Smudge by any other name's picture

That's a good one for the list. Merchant Mariner, commercial electrician, steam fitter, welder, high rise construction, medical equipment install/upgrade/repair, doomesday shelter builder.....do they call those "sheltiers"?

Never One Roach's picture

Marine pilot or captain of a ship. My friend's dad used to be a pilot for NY Port Authority guiding ships into NYC rivers. Great income but it is a tougher job then you think with lots of stress.

HenryKissingerBilderberg's picture

marine warranty surveyor (MWS) is good money...
if you are not from the god chosen synagoge banking tribe

Paul Kersey's picture

Reality is in the eye of the beholder. For some, reality can be books about talking snakes, virgin births and a man who could walk in water and rise from the dead. For others, it can be rising seal levels and uncontrollable weather in the future. For still others, it can be The 72 virgins in paradise. reality for getting married, for instance, can be that of a hypnotic fantasy. Staying married, on the other hand, will take acclimating oneself to a much different reality.

political_proxy's picture

don't take the bronw acid, man

eatapeach's picture

Or that God favors you and your race above others

adr's picture

Sure left out a lot of universities on that list. 

First off, you aren't getting into Harvard unless you are already from a rich family, or a racial justice admission. 

Kids of rich parents are going to get good paying jobs even if they aren't qualified for them. 

Wannabee's picture

These studies are worthless. Work hard & smart, regardless of the school.

cheech_wizard's picture

So, let me get this straight...

The total 2016-2017 cost of attending Harvard College without financial aid is $43,280 for tuition and $63,025 for tuition, room, board, and fees combined. (simple google - cost of Harvard per year.)

Someone's still footing that bill, which skews everything you see above.

Oddly enough, after my stint in the military, I attended a State University to finish a degree by taking 3 courses at night per semester while working full time during the day. Debt-free. In ten years time I was making over $100K after taxes.

Standard Disclaimer: I hate to fail...so my advice is as follows: if you choose a college degree in life, be sure you've already decided where you want to be after college, and for your own sanity, pick a degree you can actually use that gives you a skill you can market.

cheech_wizard's picture

One other thing, if you have to be a wage slave, you may as well be a well-paid wage slave.

Mini-Me's picture

Unless you're politically connected, it doesn't matter much where you go if you get a degree in something no one cares about.  I'll take someone with an engineering degree from Podunk U. over a Harvard graduate with a Masters in Lesbian studies any day of the week.

pitz's picture

Unfortunately there's lots of companies that won't even give the "time of day" to applicants unless they have the Ivy league degree.  Even the most mediocre grads out of Stanford can get hired at Apple, but if you're a top engineering grad and a tech wizard at, say, University of North Dakota, good luck even getting your resume looked at by Apple. 

quesnay's picture

Luckily you can almost always work your way up. So sure, your first job out of XYZ college isn't working at 'Google', but if you work for a less well known company, do well, get promoted, then you can migrate to a more 'glamorous' company after that.

Few companies even look at schools or grades after your first notable career job.

Even Google, and other glamor companies, are hiring a significant number of kids that don't even have a degree, but have shown skills and drive through open-source coding efforts and other hobby achievments that show drive and skill.




pitz's picture

Good theory, but there aren't many of those "less well known companies".  Manufacturing used to have lots of hiring, in which the best could be recruited away by the SV firms, but that's heavily gone away.  Heavy outsourcing of lower-level more entry-level type stuff has been devastating to American engineering grads. 

Google's applicant to hire ratio is dramatically worse than even Harvard, so good luck actually getting in without a degree.  They might make a big deal out of the rare hire or two who doesn't come through such system, but its very uncommon for those types of roles.  Makes for a good dream though, but just not reflective of reality.

quesnay's picture

Don't be stupid. Almost ALL companies are 'less well known companies'. 90% of companies in the US have 20 or less employees. There are almost 6 million companies in the US. Are the majority of them 'well known'? Obviously not. But I don't expect facts to shift your opinion as they never have in the past.



cheech_wizard's picture

Perhaps true today, but back in the day I was courted by Apple, while I was working for SUN Microsystems. And I was hardly a "top engineering grad" but was a "tech wizard" and two of my previous managers went to Apple, so my name did get around. I'm 58 now and I still get called by recruiters for contract/full time positions. I let my wife handle the calls. She asks for the most outrageous stuff and yet they are still interested.

To give you an idea of what she told the last recruiter...

$100K after taxes, full medical and dental, moving expenses, per diem, and four or five other gems I told her to ask for just to see if they would bite as I would be giving up a full time position to come work for the company they are recruiting for. Some go for it. Others don't.

This month Honeywell FM&T came courting... not quite sure on the fit though.

pitz's picture

Yeah a different world "back then".  The hiring window for Americans closed in the late 1990s for the tech sector. 

cheech_wizard's picture

More so after the dot-com bubble burst. And then came the mad scramble as mid-level managers built their own fiefdoms consisting solely of members of their own race. Sad but true...

VladLenin's picture

I know a few big tech employers that will take state schools over ivy league any day.  1) they're more affordable, 2) they tend to work harder, 3) they tend not to be snobs, and 4) they are not over educated for the job.  I've worked around many STEM ivy leaguers... they all were entitled, didn't contribute much... and ultiamtely didn't stick around long. Maybe they went to Apple? 

It's also about who's in charge. I always give first preference graduates from my alma mater because I know the quality of their lesbian studies program.

bidaskspread's picture

Best bang for your buck... youtube videos with CLEP verfication.

Never One Roach's picture

YT is taking down or demonitizing the conservative tubers so may not be so good if you do stuff like Lauren Southern , Crowder, etc. YT hates conservative creators.