Annual Return on Investment of United States Colleges (2015)

ROI – In-State, Out-of-State, and Private

Annual Return on Investment by College Type (1)

Expected ROI [ROI * Graduation Rate] – In-State, Out-of-State, and Private

Annual Expected Return on Investment by College Type (1)

The above chart shows that if we account for graduation rates to calculate a true expected ROI, In-State still offers the best value. However, Private colleges surpass Out-of-State, now offering a slightly better value.

ROI by Name – Institution Name Contains ‘College’, ‘University’, or ‘Institute’

The below chart shows the Annual ROI if we are to break out our 1223 educational institutions by their name type. Each of the institutions given in the PayScale data was either labeled as a “College”, “University”, or “Institute”. I created a subset for each of these and have broken out the ROIs. As shown below, educational institutions that contain the name “Institute” in their title surpass those containing the name “University” or “College” in terms of Annual ROI.


Scatterplot – Annual ROI vs. Institution Cost (Click image to explore data)

Annual Return on Investment - United States Colleges


The data was obtained from PayScale, covers 1223 four-year educational institutions, and is from 2015.

The definition of Annual Return on Investment (ROI), per PayScale: First. the 20 year net ROI was calculated as the difference between 20 year median pay as a Bachelor’s grad and the 24 year median pay for a high school grad less the 4 year college cost. Next, this number was annualized to represent the % of expected ROI each year after graduation.

For a complete ranking of the best value colleges, please refer to the PayScale source data.

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