2016 Princeton Review’s Colleges with the Best Return on Investment

Posted By Terri Williams on March 1, 2016 at 11:20 am
2016 Princeton Review’s Colleges with the Best Return on Investment
Princeton University ranks #2 on the Princeton Review's latest list of the colleges with best return on investment

Choosing a college is one of the most important – and expensive – decisions facing students and parents. Most schools are savvy enough to invest in a strong marketing campaign that includes a polished website and a strong presence across numerous media platforms. As a result, it may be difficult to see beyond the sleek and glossy presentation to determine which colleges or universities produce the best return on investment.

To make this process a little easier, the Princeton Review has analyzed and ranked 650 schools based on 7 criteria, including affordability, financial aid, academics, alumni networks, graduation rates, and internships. This data has been compiled in the Princeton Review’s 2016 edition of Colleges that Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck.

It’s a massive undertaking and a comprehensive guide that lists the top 25 schools in each specific category, in addition to the top 50 schools with the best overall return on investment.

GoodCall shares the top 10 schools in some of the categories, and we also asked the Princeton Review’s Senior VP/Publisher and author of its annual book why these criteria are important when selecting an institution of higher education.

The Top 10

The very best colleges have achieved a trifecta: excellent academics, affordability, and career success:

1 California Institute of Technology
2 Princeton University
3 The Cooper Union
4 Harvey Mudd College
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6 Stanford University
7 Yale University
8 University of California Berkeley
9 Rice University
10 Harvard University


Top 10 schools for financial aid

This list is based on the amount of financial aid that schools give students, but also includes ratings from students on how satisfied they are with their award package:

School Average Amount of Financial Aid
1 Vassar College $43,094
2 Princeton University $42,097
3 Yale University $45,710
4 Trinity College $41,684
5 Pomona College $41,443
6 Amherst College $47,243
7 Vanderbilt University $39,953
8 Reed College $39,329
9 Haverford College $42,621
10 Colgate University $41,428


Top 10 colleges if you don’t have financial aid

For students without financial aid assistance, these are the most affordable schools:

1 California Institute of Technology
2 Brigham Young University
3 Harvey Mudd College
4 University of California – Berkeley
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6 Stanford University
7 University of Virginia
8 Princeton University
9 Yale University
10 University of California – Los Angeles


Top 10 colleges for career placement

Based on the students’ ratings of their school’s career center, the list also includes starting and mid-career salaries from alumni:

1 Harvey Mudd College
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
3 California Institute of Technology
4 Stanford University
5 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
6 Stevens Institute of Technology
7 State University of New York – Maritime College
8 Babson College
9 Carnegie Mellon University
10 Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Top 10 colleges for internship opportunities

This list was based on responses from students regarding internship accessibility:

1 George Washington University
2 Claremont McKenna College
3 Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
4 Northeastern University
5 Wabash College
6 Southern Methodist University
7 Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
8 Dartmouth College
9 Rhodes College
10 Amherst College


Top 10 impact schools

According to student ratings and surveys on opportunities for community service, these are the schools with the highest marks in such categories as community service, student government, student engagement, and sustainability:

1 The University of North Carolina at Asheville
2 Macalester College
3 Clark University
4 Oberlin College
5 Furman University
6 Colorado College
7 Brown University
8 Wesleyan University
9 Whitman College
10 St. Lawrence College


Comments from the Princeton Review’s author

Robert Franek, the Princeton Review’s Senior VP/Publisher and author of its annual book, Colleges That Pay You Back, tells GoodCall that affordability and financial aid are extremely important when selecting a college. “We’ve asked this question of college applicants and parents of applicants every year since 2007 on our annual Princeton Review “College Hopes & Worries Survey.”

And among over 12,000 people who responded in 2015, Franek says 90% stated that financial aid would be “very” or “extremely” necessary for them to pay for college. “That’s up from 78% in 2007.”

He also says that the feedback they get from students and parents indicates ROI is becoming increasingly important when it comes to college selection. “Over the past few years of our “Colleges Hopes & Worries Survey,” we’ve asked tens of thousands of them what they considered the biggest benefit of a college degree.” And Franek says the choice selected most often has been “a better job and higher income.”

This overwhelming response played a major role in expanding the “Best Value Colleges” project to its “Colleges That Pay You Back” format. “Years ago, it was mainly academics that mattered, and then it was academics and affordability, and now, for many, it’s the trio of academics, affordability, and career prospects that will deliver a great ROI.”

Franek admits that college is expensive, but for most people, he believes the expense pays off. “Statistics bear this out in lifetime earnings, increased employability, and other benefits.”

And he says that most students aren’t paying the sticker price – in fact, 66% receive some sort of financial aid. “Many schools, especially the 200 we identify in our Colleges That Pay You Back book are doing an awesome job of not only doling out aid but helping their students graduate to good jobs and careers.”

But, Franek says it’s important for students and their parents to approach higher education as educated consumers and take the time to do their homework to ensure that their degree will pay off.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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