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50 Online Colleges with the Best ROI

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College Consensus has always focused on the big picture, creating method that ensures students and their families could have the widest view of the higher education landscape. But sometimes, it’s important to narrow down, and one of the most important aspects of getting a college degree is making sure that degree pays off in practical terms.

Return on investment is an important way of thinking about a college degree, especially as student loan debt goes up and the job market becomes more competitive. A degree in something you love might be its own reward, but making a living from it is a measurable real-world reward.

The College Consensus ranking of the best return on investment colleges is a valuable part of our mission to educate prospective students about their options in online education. The online education field is large and complicated, and still in its infancy; there is still little regulation, and online colleges and universities are only now really being called upon to account for themselves. College Consensus is dedicated to guiding students to the institutions that have proven they can not only account for themselves, but really change people’s lives with online education.

Our Method: How We Ranked the Best ROI Colleges for Online Students

The 50 Online Colleges with the Best ROI ranking uses Payscale College ROI Report data to rank colleges offering fully online and hybrid degree programs. Payscale’s formula for ROI is relatively simple, based on a formula which takes into account the cost of the degree, and the amount of income a graduate should make over what they would have made without the degree. It’s not a perfect prediction, but it gives a good indication of how well colleges are doing in making an impact on graduate’s lives.

Cost is calculated as the average out-of-state tuition cost for a full 4-year degree.

[Related: Check out our list of the Highest-Paying Jobs for College Grads]

1. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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When you’re looking for the best ROI colleges online, you want to consider South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The college offers three high-quality master’s degree programs with a focus on engineering and mining. That high level of education offers an opportunity to obtain your career objectives and recover the cost of your degree in a timely fashion.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology stands out by focusing on a specific area of engineering education. It offers only three online master’s degree programs, but the return on investment is very high for students. By focusing on specific topics in engineering, students are able to specialize in their education and obtain a job in a specialized career. It gives out-of-state students the specific skills they need for their long-term goals in engineering fields.

ROI: $621,000
Cost: $108,000

2. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

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When you want to focus on the best return on investment colleges in engineering or advanced studies, you may consider the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The school offers out-of-state students an opportunity to obtain three advanced graduate degrees and a specialized certification for their career aspirations. Since the degrees focus on engineering studies and topics related to engineering, students are prepared for the challenges of working in a demanding career in the mining or engineering industries.

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology differs from other schools by offering fully online programs in engineering and teaching. It also offers an online certification in hydrology that allows students to focus on specialized areas of mining or engineering. That focus on specialized skills allows students to obtain a job in their industry and get a high return on their investment in a degree. It is an advanced level of study that allows students to work around their own schedule and job responsibilities.

ROI: $643,000

Mount Carmel College of Nursing logo3. Mount Carmel College of Nursing

When you want to find the best ROI colleges for a degree in nursing, the Mount Carmel College of Nursing offers online programs to assist with your goals. The private college offers three online programs for out-of-state and in-state students. It has a high return on investment as students can obtain an undergraduate degree, a graduate degree, and a specialized certification from the comfort of home. The school’s online programs are reasonable and help students obtain a career in the medical industry.

Mount Carmel College of Nursing stands out for their focus on nursing studies. The online degree program allows students to work on their education at every level. That helps them get started in a nursing career and advance into more specialized roles as they gain experience and decide to pursue a higher level of education. The college is a good choice when you want a nursing degree with a high return on your investment and a high level of focus on your career goals.

ROI: $434,000 
Cost: $94,500

4. Missouri University of Science and Technology

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The Missouri University of Science and Technology offers online degree programs with a high return on your investment. While the specific potential for a high return on your investment depends on the specific degree you obtain, the school offers 18 graduate-level programs online. Students can focus on several areas of interest and obtain a master’s degree that fits their career aspirations and goals. Since the school offers several programs online, out-of-state students can obtain a degree in an advanced field of study without leaving the comfort of home.

The Missouri University of Science and Technology stands apart by offering several degree programs in engineering, science, and technology. Students have several choices for their degree and career. It also offers specialized studies that help students focus on specific industries when they finish their degree. As an online program, students also have the opportunity to work from any location and work around a complicated work schedule.

ROI: $691,000 
Cost: $149,000

5. Montana Tech of the University of Montana

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Montana Tech of the University of Montana offers five online programs with a high return on your investment. The online programs focus on specific areas of study and specialized certifications. Students can choose from three graduate programs or two online certifications. While the school focuses primarily on technological or engineering studies, you also have options for an online certification for students who complete a bachelor’s in nursing and want a professional designation.

The way Montana Tech stands apart from other colleges and universities is the flexibility of their online programs and the specialized areas of study. The school offers specific online degree programs that have a high return on investment for students. Since the online programs allow students to work on their degree from any location, it is ideal for out-of-state students or military students who may need to work around their obligations and cannot attend traditional classes.

ROI: $583,000 
Cost: $129,000

6. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

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When you’re looking for the best return on investment colleges for online courses, you may consider California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly offers two fully online master’s programs and two online professional certifications. The specialized studies focus on specific areas of engineering and packaging to help students with their career goals. The certifications apply to engineering studies and specialize in fire protection. It gives students a highly specific education for their career goals.

California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo stands out for their specific focus on fire protection in engineering. Students learn specialized skills through online programs that allow them to move into specialized areas of engineering. The online degrees give students the training they need to focus on their career and the challenges of fire protection in engineering. Out-of-state students will find that specialized studies give them a high return on their investment in their education.

ROI: $654,000 
Cost: $145,000

7. University of Alaska Fairbanks

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Out-of-state students looking for an online program with a high return on investment will find that the University of Alaska at Fairbanks offers the opportunities they need to accomplish their goals. The online degree programs allow students to work on every level of their education from home or any location in the world. The college recognizes that distance may prevent students from obtaining their degree, and they offer several online programs to help students with their long-term goals.

The University of Alaska at Fairbanks stands out from other programs because it offers several fully online courses. The school offers online degree programs from associate’s degrees to master’s degrees. It also offers fully online professional certifications and occupational endorsements that help students advance in their careers. The myriad of degrees allow out-of-state students and local students to accomplish their goals when it fits their schedule and still obtain a high return on their investment in a degree.

ROI: $481,000 
Cost: $116,000

8. University of Wisconsin-Platteville

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When you are looking for fully online degree programs with a high return on investment, you will want to consider the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. UW-Platteville offers six online master’s degree programs and three online bachelor’s degree programs. The online master’s degree programs focus on specialized areas of study and leadership skills. The undergraduate programs focus on criminal justice, computing, and business administration. Out-of-state students benefit from a high return on investment while still obtaining an advanced degree.

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville stands apart by offering nine fully online programs for students. The online programs allow students to study important topics and obtain a degree without leaving the comfort of home. It allows them to work around a complicated schedule or personal obligations by giving them the flexibility to study when it fits their situation. The high return on investment allows students to focus on their career goals while gaining the knowledge they need to obtain promotions or move forward with a long-term plan.

ROI: $420,000 
Cost: $104,000

9. Georgia Institute of Technology

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The Georgia Institute of Technology at their Main Campus offers a high return on investment to students. The online degree programs give students the options they need to focus on their career goals and obtain promotions in their job. Georgia Tech offers 14 online master’s degree programs in specialized areas of study with a focus on engineering, science, and technology. When students want to take on a leadership role, the school offers degrees in manufacturing leadership and related fields to help with students who want to obtain an upper management position or a leadership role in their job.

The Georgia Institute of Technology differs from other schools by offering advanced degrees through online programs. The fully online programs allow out-of-state students to work on their master’s degree from any location in the world. It is ideal for military students or individuals who have obligations at work that limit their availability. The school offers several degrees online, which helps you accomplish your long-term goals.

ROI: $777,000 
Cost: $180,000

10. Midwestern State University

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Finding the best online degree programs with a high return on investment means you want to consider Midwestern State University. The university offers 14 online programs to students. Students can start with an undergraduate degree through one of the four online undergraduate programs. The school also offers eight master’s level degree programs and two certifications. Since the degree programs are fully online, it allows students to work on their degree at any location.

Midwestern State University stands apart from other programs by offering several fully online degree programs to students. Midwestern has a total of 14 online degree programs and allows out-of-state students to obtain a degree without coming to the campus or leaving their home. Since students have options to study undergraduate subjects and master’s level programs, it is a good choice for every level of education. The school has a high return on investment for students who obtain an online degree and start working in their industry.

ROI: $308,000
Cost: $82,800

11. Baker College Online

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Working students seeking to get the most of the money can explore the many online degree programs at Baker College.   When a traditional campus-based education is not a good fit, Baker Colleges has many online degree programs to fit busy schedules.  Whether students are interested in pursuing a degree in mathematics, social sciences or technology, there is a program to meet their needs. Students undergo the same rigorous curriculum that classroom-based students receive but they can complete coursework on their own terms. Qualified instructors are recognized professionals in their own fields so students have access to global perspectives. Virtual classrooms are designed to maximize student participation through discussions, questions and assignments.  Though the program offers students flexibility, there are start and end dates that need to be adhered to.  An extensive online library supports students while they are studying at a distance.  When students are looking for the best return on investment colleges, Baker College is a good resource to check into.

Since its founding over 100 years ago, Baker College has worked to provide high quality educational experiences by recognized faculty.  Through the years, they have grown to provide students with a wide variety of online courses to meet their busy schedules.  Whether students are returning to school to further their career or just starting out, they can receive an education in the careers most in demand by industry.  If the student’s wishes, a plan can be developed that combines online courses with more traditional classroom experiences.  US News & World Report ranks Baker College as #71 in their list ‘Best Value Schools’.

ROI: $299,000
Cost: $82,000

12. Colorado School of Mines

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Students at Colorado School of Mines are able to earn three different space resource degrees online.  The school offers a certificate program, MS – non thesis and a PhD. Program.  These graduate programs are designed for professionals who want to broaden their knowledge and skills as they relate to space exploration and the management of resources in that environment.  The program provides a foundation of the core principles.  Students then progress on to understand the principles of resource management such as identification, responsible extraction and processing of materials from space.  For advanced study in a cutting edge field, this is one of the best ROI colleges.

Located in Golden, CO, Colorado School of Mines offers several certificate and degree programs.  While many of the programs awaiting approval to be offered as online programs, they continue to serve students in traditional classrooms.  The online programs allow working professionals to expand their careers into a new area.  The average class size is 16:1 giving students easy access to exceptional faculty members.  The faculty is composed on prominent researchers and industry leaders.  US News & World Report ranked the university as #138 in ‘Best Value Schools’.  They as recognized them as #46 ‘Best Colleges for Veterans’ and #80 in ‘National Universities’.

ROI: $840,000
Cost: $195,000

13. Weber State University

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Students looking an a quality online education can earn a certificate, bachelors or masters degree in a variety of programs at Weber State University.  Programs range from a variety of health care industry careers such as Health Care Administration to Criminal Justice and Professional Sales.  All coursework is delivered online unless some classroom time is specified.  Some of their degree programs run on a traditional semester basis but they have a large number of courses that can be taken as Independent Study with students completing the course at their own pace.  The programs at Weber State University make them one of the best return on investment colleges.

Based on Ogden, UT, Weber State University gives students direct access to an accomplished faculty who share their real world experience with students.  This is reflected in the average class ratio of 21:1. The average age of the student population of 26 years of age and the high number of working students (79%) reflects the university’s mission to support working students returning to school and veterans.  US News & World Report has ranked them in the following manner:  #96-127 ‘Regional Universities West’, # 82 in ‘Engineering Programs’, and #312 in ‘Business Programs’.

ROI: $409,000
Cost: $110,000

14. Dakota State University

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Time is always at a premium but students wanting to further their careers or work with earning their degree have a wide variety of options available to them through the online programs at Dakota State University.  The university has 38 online programs that are offered in every state and outside of the country.  When considering pursuing a degree, however, it’s important to check to see that the particular program is offered in the state or country where the student is located.  Students have access to online career services, disability services and a library to support their education when they need it.  For the support and the variety of programs, Dakota State University is one of the best ROI colleges.

Since 1881, students have been taught by highly qualified professors from the home campus in Madison, SD.  The programs have grown to include the online programming to support the changing world of education and students’ needs.  Students receive the same instruction from the same faculty that are teaching in the classrooms.  This is done with the university’s commitment that higher education should be affordable to all those who seek it.  The university received a ranking of #118 in ‘Regional Universities Midwest’ and #36 in ‘Top Public Schools’ from US News & World Report.

ROI: $291,000
Cost: $86,500

15. Park University

Park University logo

Park University offers such a wide variety of online programs that most students will find the one that suits that desired career path or further their current career.  The number of certificate and degree programs include Art History, Communications, Biology, Disaster & Emergency Management, Political Science, Public Administration and Urban & Regional Planning to name a few.  Courses are delivered by highly qualified professors who are recognized in their field.  Students are supported by career counselors and online resources.  In seeking the  best return on investment colleges, students should look into the many opportunities for them at Park University.

Park University was established as a private university in 1875.  They have expanded to include the online distance education plans and 41 campus centers.  The student and faculty composition have also grown extremely divers with 89 countries represented.  Currently, they offer 64 degree programs.  Also the faculty has grown.  While there are 114 faculty members on campus, there are also over 1,100 adjunct faculty to meet the needs of students learning through distance education.  They are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.  In 2019, US News & World Report ranked the university as #128-165 in their ‘Regional Universities Midwest’ listing.

ROI: $344,000
Cost: $97,800

16. Peru State College

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Students can select from 13 different online programs at Peru State College.  Courses are also offered at the main campus in Peru, NE.  Bachelors degrees are in subjects related to either Business Administration or Criminal Justice.  Masters level degrees are offered in Master of Science in Education and Master of Science in Organizational Management.  Courses are delivered with a flexible schedule to meet the needs of working students.  Also, all classes are taught by recognized faculty members who are accomplished in their respective fields.  If a student if unsure if the college or online learning is a good fit for them, they are able to test drive a class to get a feel for the experience.  Among the best ROI colleges, Peru State College is a good investment because of the commitment to quality and affordability.

As Nebraska’s first college, Peru State College has grown to provide a diverse, innovative quality education to students on campus and those who learn at a distance.  Incoming students are allowed to transfer in up to 90 credits from a university or college or up to 66 credits from a community college or vocational school.  The college also reviews prior life and work experience, known as the Life Credit, for the potentially of its applicability for credit.  This can make a degree program easier and faster to complete.  The college is keeping its programs affordable by including everything in the course credit hour price.  There are no fees to apply or additional fees after a student has been accepted into the school.  Niche ranked the professors at the college at a ‘B+’ for their background, experiences and educational delivery.  They also reported that ‘92% of students felt their professors put a lot of effort into teaching their classes.’

ROI: $185,000
Cost: $70,100

17. San Jose State University

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San Jose State University’s return on investment is one of the best in the nation, which should come as no surprise – California’s public research universities are some of the most respected in the world. There’s another very good reason for that – San Jose State is Silicon Valley’s most prominent public university, and employers recruit students from SJSU at an extremely high rate. Silicon Valley recruitment + public university tuition costs = great return on investment.

San Jose State is the oldest public university in California, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything old-fashioned about SJSU – except old-fashioned value. San Jose State has made online education a priority, building 17 and counting top-ranked software engineering, information science, and medical product development programs, to name just a few. SJSU is also one of the most diverse universities in the nation, with a high proportion of Asian and Latino students.

ROI: $552,000
Cost: $147,000

18. The University of Texas of the Permian Basin

University of Texas of the Permian Basin

The University of Texas of the Permian Basin is a top-ranked regional institution in the UT system, dedicated to bringing quality professional education to the Permian Basin region. With explosive growth in the area, due to continued development of the petroleum industry, UTPB has become one of the fastest-growing institutions in Texas. To meet increasing demand, UTPB has invested their efforts into more than two dozen fully online degree programs, allowing working adults throughout the state to advance in their education and careers.

UTPB is a relatively young school, founded in 1973, primarily for nontraditional students.  UTPB’s programs are largely focused on social needs, which means not only an excellent ROI for students, but for the whole community. Online students in Texas can take advantage of certificate programs, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s programs in fields ranging from communications and criminal justice to public administration, special education, and even kinesiology. UTPB’s bachelor’s and masters in nursing programs are particularly well-respected.

ROI: $285,000
Cost: $91,600

19. Fashion Institute of Technology


The State University of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology only offers two fully online degrees, but SUNY FIT is one of the highest ROI institutions in the nation. Online students can choose from FIT’s 1-year associate’s degree in Fashion Business Management, a degree completion program for students who have already earned 30 college credits; or a 2-year bachelor’s completion program in International Trade and Marketing, which requires at least 60 credits to transfer. Both programs are the same as their on-campus counterpart, and students must meet all FIT admissions requirements.

The Fashion Institute of Technology began in 1944, and throughout its history has focused on precisely what its name suggests – the intersection of fashion design, business, and technology. SUNY FIT students are prepared for careers in all sorts of areas in the fashion industry, from actual design to management and marketing. FIT is widely recognized as the foremost fashion school in the nation, and graduates enjoy and impressively high ROI in a highly competitive occupation.

ROI: $438,000 
Cost: $125,000

20. West Texas A & M University

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The many online degree programs offered by West Texas A&M University are a crucial part of meeting the university’s mission. Located in Canyon, TX – a suburb of Amarillo – West Texas A&M is responsible for making higher education accessible to a region where most of the population is spread-out across vast rural regions. West Texas is ranch country, after all. And WTAMU is doing that job extremely well, with 30 fully online and hybrid degree programs. Some of the most in-demand programs include Computer Information Technology, Criminal Justice, Business Management, and an online RN to BSN nursing degree.

With its regional public university mission, West Texas A&M makes outreach a priority, earning top rankings not only for their online programs in general, but also for their military friendliness. A highly diverse university, WTAMU’s student body is 40% minority and more than half women. And WTAMU makes a tremendous impact on its students lives, earning recognition for one of the highest levels of return on investment in the West.

ROI: $238,000 
Cost: $83,500

21. Youngstown State University

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Students looking for an online degree program can find 12 online degree programs at Youngstown State University. While the school also has active campuses in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Ohio, the online programs in healthcare and criminal justice are a popular alternative to working adults, special needs students and anyone unable to travel to their campuses. Classes are conducted using three different models: 100% online, hybrid of online and in person classes and videoconferencing. At the graduate level, masters programs in economics, business administration and engineering MSE are offered alongside healthcare and criminal justice focused degrees. The combination of available degree plans, faculty and affordable costs make this one of the best ROI colleges to look into.

Youngstown State University provides students with close access to faculty members. The average student to faculty ratio is 14:1. Founded in 1908 by the YMCA, the university has grown steadily to become a respected institution for their academic excellence and focus on student success. Each year, $8.1 million is available to students through financial aid. A fully accredited university, Youngstown offers Associates, Bachelors and Master’s degrees though their online programs only offer Bachelors and Masters degrees. US News & World Report ranked the university #128-165 in ‘Regional Universities Midwest’ in 2019. The engineering program was ranked #82 and the business school was ranked #405.

ROI: $256,000
Cost: $87,300

22. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health

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Nursing and healthcare students can find many online programs to support their career goals at Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing. The school is also affiliated with the largest healthcare provider in the state so on campus students have hands on learning experiences while online students have access to healthcare leaders in their chose specialty. Coursework is designed specifically for working professionals and are flexible. The focus allows students to complete their professional degree or further their education to benefit their current career. The faculty is composed of experienced professionals who share their knowledge of the US healthcare market with students. The industry and technical knowledge that students receive along with the flexible schedule make this one of the best return on investment colleges for nursing students.

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing is affiliated with Nebraska Methodist Healthcare Systems, one of the largest healthcare providers in the state. This association gives students unprecedented access to highly qualified practitioners and their industry knowledge. Ninety percent of the teaching faculty have advanced degrees and certifications in their chosen field of specialization. Students are supported through a variety of programs designed to aid in their success. Student Services helps students with their degree plan. Counselors are available to support online learners with more personal problems such as test anxiety, time management or adjustment to college studies. Tutoring services are also available. Niche ranked the college in 2019 with an ‘A-‘ grade.

ROI: $363,000
Cost: $111,000

23. Dickinson State University

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Students have access to 13 different online degree programs (Master’s, Bachelor’s & Associates) and several certificate programs at Dickinson State. Degrees are available in nursing, various topics in business administration, art and agriculturally related services. The university uses the Blackboard platform that gives students access to lectures, forums and all materials used in the course. Classes are recorded so that students can view lectures at their convenience. Students receive support from live tutors on the platform. The online tutoring center is another way that students are supported during their studies. The amount of ongoing support available to students, affordability and diverse applicable degree programs make this university one of the best ROI colleges.

Dickinson State University is a fully accredited university with specialty accreditations in some specialty areas such as nursing. The online programs are designed to engage and support adult learners. Courses are flexible and while there are weekly deadlines, coursework can be completed when convenient for the student. The school is also well known for their Theodore Roosevelt Center which also hosts the Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program that couple their academic program with students of Roosevelt’s leadership lessons and service. In 2019, US News & World Report ranked the Dickinson State University at #6 in their ‘Top Public Schools’ list. They also ranked it #52 in the list ‘Best Regional Colleges- Midwest’. For ROI, this is a university worth looking into.

ROI: $192,000
Cost: $77,400

24. California State Polytechnic University-Pomona

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To conveniently further their career through advanced education, students can choose from six online master’s degree programs at California State Polytechnic University. Degrees include MS in accountancy, geology, hospitality management, interior architecture, systems engineering and dietetics. Courses are offered as part of the College of Extended University within CalPoly. The programs represent an inter-departmental collaboration to support the needs of disabled and working students. Great attention is given to deliver the same caliber educational content online as the students in traditional classrooms receive. Challenging courses are delivered by an experienced and accomplished faculty. For the university’s reputation for academic excellence and value, this is one of the best return on investment colleges.

California State Polytechnic University is well known for their demand for academic excellence. Central to every program is collaboration to enhance the learner’s experience. The school also advocates for and encourages hands on learning experiences and internships to reinforce classroom learning. This commitment to the success of each student and the exceptional faculty make this is unique university to look into. In their 2019 ‘Regional Universities West’ list, US News & World Report ranked the university at #28. They were also ranked #56 in ‘Best Value Schools’. Lastly, they were ranked #8 in ‘Best Undergraduate Teaching’. The school’s motto translates to “Application of Knowledge” in demonstration of their unique approach to education by learning while doing.

ROI: $506,000
Cost: $143,000

25. Wayland Baptist University

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Whether just starting out in college or returning to further your education, students can choose from twenty-two different online programs at Wayland Baptist University. Bachelor’s, Master’s and one doctoral program cover subjects ranging from range from business administration, criminal justice and education to Christian ministry and divinity. Some programs offer a hybrid solution that combines traditional classroom study with online coursework. Four eleven week terms are offered throughout the year making the program flexible for working students. Past work and military experience are considered for course credit. This can accelerate a program for students. The variety of available courses and flexible natures make this university one of the best ROI colleges.

Wayland Baptist University was founded in 1908 on the principles that education should be broadly available to all and grounded in the Christian faith. The university may have grown and changed with technological advances but they are still centered on those founding principles. The university is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and is located between Lubbock and Amarillo, TX. The average student to faculty ratio is 15:1. While the school is small with only 5,000 students total, students enjoy high quality academics. US News & World Report ranked the university in their Regional Universities West.

ROI: $304,000
Cost: $102,000

26. Oklahoma Panhandle State University

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Practicing registered nurses can go through the online program at Oklahoma Panhandle State University to earn their Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN). This convenient, flexible program has eight courses that nurses can complete in approximately one year. The degree program is 100% online and requires no classroom or campus attendance making it a good option for nurses located in other areas. The experienced faculty are also competent in the distance learning format to support students with their professional goals. Full time and part time degree plans are available to meet the challenges of working students. Earning this degree level greatly enhances the earning capacity and opportunities available to nurses. The accomplished faculty and the flexible nature of the program make this nursing program one of the best return on investment colleges for nurses in the country.

Oklahoma Panhandle State University motto is ‘Progress Through Knowledge’. The faculty and leadership personify this motto as they work to prepare students to succeed in the global marketplace. Located in Goodwell, OK, the University was founded in 1909 as an agricultural education college. It has since grown and expanded their program to serve the broader needs of students. Their online nursing program was developed when the Institute of Medicine recommended that 80% of nurses needed their Bachelor of Science degree by 2020 to meet the industry demand. Hospitals and healthcare organizations are already actively looking for nurses with these advanced degrees. In 2019, US News & World Report ranked the university at #28-36 in their list ‘Regional Colleges West’. This ranking reflects the quality of the university and its programs.

ROI: $138,000
Cost: $67,600

27. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire has quietly become a leader in online higher education – in true Wisconsin style, doing great work without seeking attention. Students at UWEC can choose from a number of fully online graduate programs, including a Master’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders, an MS in Data Science, and a highly-ranked online MBA. UW Eau Claire offers courses taught by real professors – not assistants – and low tuition costs, in keeping with the public university mission of making education affordable and accessible.

UW Eau Claire is classified as a regional public university, and is frequently ranked as one of the top schools in the Midwest. Originally a teacher’s college, UWEC has always put its focus on meeting the needs of Wisconsin’s people, first by educating educators, and today by providing excellent professional programs for working adults. UWEC is known for combining quality education with affordability, making it one of the best return on investment colleges in the nation.

ROI: $327,000 
Cost: $107,000

28. Minot State University

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North Dakota is a vast land with spread-out, rural populations and challenging winters – the perfect environment for online education, and Minot State University is working hard to prove it. Students in North Dakota and elsewhere can earn fully online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a number of in-demand fields. Bachelor’s completion programs include management and international business, human services, and online RN to BSN degrees; master’s programs include the Master of Science in Management and MS in Sports Management.

Minot State has the mission of a regional public institution, to reach out and offer opportunity to as many North Dakotans as possible. Of course, in a state like North Dakota, that often means reaching out to people where they are, since they can’t make it to campus. From its teacher college beginning to today, Minot State has worked to improve the lives and careers of working adults and other nontraditional students. And it pays off, with one of the highest rates of return on investment in the nation, putting Minot State solidly on the list of best ROI colleges.

ROI: $128,000 
Cost: $66,800

29. Bemidji State University

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Bemidji State University’s online and distance learning division offers more than a dozen fully online certificates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees that are tailor-made for working adults throughout Minnesota and the US. BSU’s undergraduate programs are offered in a degree-completion format, for students who have already earned an associate’s or 60 credits; these include areas like criminal justice, business management, and accounting. Master’s programs include the MBA and special education.

A small city in northern Minnesota, Bemidji isn’t known for much besides its self-proclaimed status as the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, but Bemidji State University has made itself known nationally as a center for online higher education. One of the biggest reasons is the fact that BSU charges no out of state tuition – online students from anywhere in the nation pay the same low tuition rate as Minnesota students. That affordability, and high-quality instruction, has helped make Bemidji State one of the best return on investment colleges in the US.

ROI: $182,000 
Cost: $78,300

30. Texas Tech University

texas tech logo

Texas Tech University has been widely known as one of the best online colleges in the nation, and it’s no wonder why. With more than 50 fully online and hybrid degree programs, from certificates and bachelor’s to master’s and doctorates. Students have the opportunity to advance their careers with bachelor’s completion programs and post-graduate programs, in nearly every field: communication and computer science, engineering and business, education and nursing. Online courses are taught by Texas Tech’s award-winning faculty, just like their on-campus programs.

Even more than variety, Texas Tech is known for value in online higher education. TTU is one of the most military friendly and disability friendly colleges in the nation. They’re also exceptionally affordable, even for out-of-state students, who pay just a little more in tuition than in-state students, while there are generous scholarships for transfer students. All in all, Texas Tech has earned its reputation as one of the best ROI colleges in the nation.

ROI: $410,000
Cost: $126,000

31. Middle Georgia State University

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Middle Georgia State University offers nine online programs for students seeking a flexible online program.  Many of their students are working adults who do not fit the more traditional campus classroom profile.  The University offers Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s level degree programs, as well as, two certificate programs in airline and airport management.  Associate Degrees include criminal justice, political science and financial technology.  The Bachelor’s and Master’s programs focus on nursing and information technology.   The program is a collaboration of the schools within the university.  Students are supported by an academic advisor.  For the quality of programs and qualified teaching faculty, this university’s programs are one of the best ROI colleges.

Middle Georgia State University has several campuses located around the state and one at the Macon Airport.  The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.  The university’s state mission is to provide high quality education for the best price.  Stewardship and collaboration are cornerstone principles exercised by the faculty and students.  While they have traditional classrooms, they recognize the growing need for students to be able to return and further their education.  This led to the online programs to support working adults, the disabled and any other individual who otherwise may not be able to attend.  This university continually strives to make education there a great return on investment for students.  US News & World Report ranked the university at #55 in ‘Regional Colleges South’ and #12 in the ‘Top Public Schools’ lists in 2019.

ROI: $218,000
Cost: $89,300

32. University of Alabama in Huntsville

university Alabama huntsville logo

The University of Alabama in Huntsville offers a wide array of online degree programs in Nursing, Business Administration, Education, Engineering and a few Interdisciplinary programs related to cyber security.  Additionally, they have courses that are 100% online and a hybrid mix of online coursework combined with traditional classroom instruction.  They also have Professional & Continuing Studies for individuals seeking additional educational opportunities or certifications without committing to a full degree program.  Students have online resources and tutorials to help them through their degree plan.   Lectures are captured on the platform for streaming by students or viewing at a more convenient time.  The sheer variety of online courses and educational delivery options make this one of the best ROI colleges.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville is recognized as a significant research university.  Students attend from throughout the US and over 70 different countries.  As a public national university, they offer over 90 degree programs through their traditional campuses.  The main campuses has 16 high tech research facilities and centers making it the largest research park in the United States.  Both online and traditional classroom students benefit from the close access to world recognized and experienced faculty and instructors.  The Brookings Institute has named the university as the best university in the state based on the return on investment for its students.

ROI: $471,000
Cost: $143,000

33. Lamar University

lamar university logo

Students have a broad selection to choose from when they are looking for an online degree or certificate program at Lamar University.  The broad degree programs include Business Programs, Political Science & Criminal Justice Programs, Education, Nursing, Liberal Arts/Communications and Health Sciences.  Students are able to begin their educational journey or advance their degree to further their career.  Certificate programs relating to education are also offered.  Faculty are recognized for their excellence and contributions to their chosen professions.  This experience and background benefits students throughout the time with the university.  Online resources support every students’ learning experience.

With a broad selection of areas to study and a commitment to providing a valuable educational experience makes Lamar University on the best return on investment colleges. These rankings recognize the exceptional faculty and educational experiences that students receive.  The school also provides support for military and veterans who are returning to school on the GI Bill.  Students with disabilities that prevent them traveling to the main campus can engage in the online degree programs and receive support throughout their collegiate career.  The flexibility and support make this a university to look into.

ROI: $364,000
Cost: $122,000

34. The University of Texas at Arlington

1280px University of Texas at Arlington logo.svg

The University of Texas at Arlington offers many degree programs online.  The main subjects students can pursue include:  Nursing, Public Health, MBA, Urban & Public Affairs Programs and Education.  Multiple start times are provided for the convenience of busy, working students with full schedules.  Not convenient, this can accelerate any chosen program so that students can complete coursework more quickly.  Online services support students.  Academic advisers help to guide students through their degree plan so that it supports their professional career needs.  Financial aid is available.   The University of Texas at Arlington is one of the best ROI colleges.

The University of Texas at Arlington is recognized as a top doctoral research university in the US by the Carnegie Foundation.  They’ve designated it for its ‘Highest Research Activity’.  This research and the faculty’s commitment to rigorous, innovative teaching make this a university to consider.  Currently, the university has 58,000 students in the US and around the world.  The distance learning degree programs are internationally recognized for excellence.  Through its ten colleges and schools, the university offers 180 bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.  With the variety of programs, accomplished faculty and excellent student support, this is a university worth looking into for the best return on investment colleges.

ROI: $416,000
Cost: $133,000

35. University of Houston

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The University of Houston has an extensive catalog of online degree programs and courses.  Since 1953, they have led the field of distance education.  Their current student population of 45,000 students around have access to over 1,250 online and distance education courses.  They also offer a full complement of professional development and certification courses for those seeking to further their careers.  For students close to the campus, the ‘Weekend U’ allows students to complete core curriculum classes on Saturdays.  This program is offered as a traditional classroom or hybrid experience with only a small portion in the person and the balance of study is online.  There are a full range of services to support students as they progress through their degree plan.  The value of the coursework, the many options to choose from and the accomplished faculty make the University of Houston one of the best return on investment colleges.

All online degree program and special education opportunities are available through the department ‘Online & Special Programs’ at the University of Houston.  The university is widely recognized for the accomplished and experienced instructors and teaching staff.  The large course catalog offers both online coursework and hybrid programs that combine online study and lectures with limited classroom contact time.  This allows students to find the program and delivery format that best suits their learning style.  The university also offers non-degree professional development courses. All courses meet the rigorous standards of the more traditional classroom courses.

ROI: $435,000
Cost: $137,000

36. University of Minnesota-Crookston

Minnesota Crookston logo

The University of Minnesota – Crookston is another school with a large catalog of online degree programs.  Students can pursue Bachelor’s degrees, minors programs and certificate programs in a variety of subject areas.  Students are given a free pre-evaluation to assess their professional experience and help create their degree plan.  Many services are available online to support students while they study and ensure that they are progressing smoothly through their program.  Disabled students also have a resource center online to support their education experience and any special needs they may have.  The faculty are all recognized and accomplished in their chosen fields.  The variety of coursework and excellent student support makes the University of Minnesota one of the best ROI colleges.

The University of Minnesota is fully accredited.  The university has five campuses located around the state.  It is a public university with approximately 1,500 students both online and on traditional campuses.  Every student and faculty member is given a laptop by the university.  The university’s philosophy drives an hands on approach to the educational experience.  Students receive individual attention and are in close contact with their professors.  Mentorship is also a significant part of the university’s approach.  US News & World Report ranked the university in 2019 at #36 in ‘Regional Colleges Midwest’ and #2 in ‘Top Public Schools’.

ROI: $213,000
Cost: $91,300

37. Minnesota State University-Mankato

minnesota state mankato logo

Minnesota State University-Mankato has made online and distance education a priority for meeting the needs of working adults and professionals across the state. With a responsibility for reaching out to nontraditional students, MSU has developed more than 50 fully online degree programs, including bachelor’s completion, master’s, and certificate programs. Some of the most in-demand fields include the online RN to BSN, education master’s, and Information Security and Risk Management.

Minnesota State University-Mankato is recognized as the flagship of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, dating back to 1858. In the last two decades, MSU has become a comprehensive university, reaching all the way up to doctoral programs, and has earned a reputation as one of the top regional institutions in the Midwest. Reasonable tuition and a strong reputation come together to make one of the best return on investment colleges around.

ROI: $278,000 
Cost: $105,000

38. Oregon Institute of Technology

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The Oregon Institute of Technology is living up to the “Technology” part of its mission, with a strong selection of Oregon Tech online degree programs making it possible for working adults and nontraditional students to learn new skills and advance in their careers. Oregon Tech offers master’s degrees in Allied Health and Engineering, bachelor’s degrees like Health Informatics and Information Technology, and bachelor’s completion programs for students who already have an associate’s degree.

Oregon Tech does all of this because adult education is at the heart of its mission. The university began as a vocational school for WWII veterans returning to civilian life, and its reputation has been built on getting students educated and trained for career success. Oregon Tech’s online programs are no different, and because of the university’s dedication to educational quality and job market demand, students find Oregon Tech one of the best ROI colleges for online education.

ROI: $509,000 
Cost: $153,000

39. Utah State University

Utah State University logo

Utah State University’s online programs have been some of the top-ranked in the nation, including recognition from U.S. News & World Report as a top undergraduate and graduate institution, and one of the best online schools for veterans. Depth and breadth is the name of the game for Utah State, with fully online master’s and bachelor’s degrees, as well as certificates, associate’s, and minors. Utah State is especially strong in the helping occupations like education and health, from communication disorders to public health nutrition.

Utah’s largest public university, Utah State was founded as the state’s Morrill Land Grant institution, teaching agriculture and applied mechanical science. From that foundation, Utah State has grown into one of the state’s main forces for professional education. It’s also the Utah university with the most out-of-state students, and its online programs have earned national recognition. A strong ROI makes Utah State a great online investment.

ROI: $361,000 
Cost: $123,000

40. California State University-East Bay

cal state east bay logo

California State University East Bay’s online degree programs are built around the university’s strengths – teaching, business, and nursing chief among them. Cal State East Bay offers more than 40 fully online and hybrid programs, including degrees in educational leadership; hospitality, recreation, and tourism; and human development. In other words, Cal State East Bay focuses on programs that benefit the student, and the community, in keeping with the philosophy of the CSU system – one of the nation’s most acclaimed public higher education systems.

CSU East Bay began in 1957 to serve the people of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region that has earned a bit of attention in recent years. That location – the most densely populated portion of the Bay Area – means Cal State East Bay has a tremendous responsibility, and its online degree programs are a key way of meeting that responsibility. And the job market of San Francisco, particularly in the tech industry, means that CSU East Bay has become one of the best ROI colleges in the US.

ROI: $433,000 
Cost: $138,000

41. University of Wisconsin-Stout

UW Stout logo

The online degree programs at the University of Wisconsin at Stout offer a high return on investment when students want to obtain an undergraduate degree. It is one of the best ROI colleges due to the high number of programs available and the earnings potential when compared to the cost of the degree program. The out-of-state program offers more than 50 online degree programs. It allows students to focus on their career aspirations through flexible and affordable programs.

The University of Wisconsin-Stout stands out for the number of online degree programs available to students. It has more than 50 online programs, which allows out-of-state students to focus on their degree from any location. It also offers greater flexibility to in-state students who have obligations or responsibilities that limit their options to attend traditional classes on the college campus. When you consider the high return on investment for a degree, students have an opportunity to accomplish their career goals and increase their earnings potential without complicating their current living situation.

ROI: $287,000
Cost: $108,000

42. North Dakota State University

division of distance and continuing education north dakota state university logo 58522

When you want to find the best return on investment colleges, you may consider schools with online degree options and traditional classes. North Dakota State University offers distance learning degrees and certifications through their main campus. Students can take courses online or focus on blended programs with online and on-campus classes. It offers the flexibility you need to keep up with your studies when you are an out-of-state student or you have obligations that limit your availability during the day. It is also a good option for military students who may face challenges associated with their military service.

North Dakota State University differs from other programs by offering several online programs for undergraduate and graduate students. You can work on an undergraduate degree or you can advance in your education with a Master’s degree or a graduate certificate program. The opportunity to focus on your long-term goals and obtain a high level of education helps you enjoy a high return on your investment. The school has a high return on investment due to the earnings potential for an online degree when compared to the cost of the degree program for an out-of-state student.

ROI: $368,000
Cost: $125,000

43. Saint Cloud State University

st cloud logo

When you want to attend the best ROI colleges for an online student, you may consider Saint Cloud State University. The college offers a myriad of college degree programs for students and allows you to take courses for undergraduate degrees and associate’s degrees online. That flexibility helps you stay on track for your goals without the challenge of trying to balance out your current job and responsibilities with traditional on-campus classes. The school allows you to focus on getting a degree that fits your long-term plans.

Saint Cloud State University stands apart for having more than 200 online courses for students each semester. That means you have several online programs available and can focus on accomplishing your goals without wasting your time. It allows out-of-state students, or military students, to keep up with their degree when they cannot take a class on campus. The school also offers online programs for associate’s degrees and specialized certifications, which allows you to advance in a career before you finish your undergraduate degree program. When you add in a high return on your investment, it is worth considering the program for your long-term goals.

ROI: $288,000
Cost: $109,000

44. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

minnesota twin citites logo

When you are looking for the best return on investment colleges, you may consider the University of Minnesota Twin Cities online degree programs. The college offers a high return on investment for out-of-state students who pursue a degree through the school. It also offers a variety of online and blended class programs to help students work on a schedule that fits their situation and goals. The opportunities available after completing the degree help you focus on long-term plans for your career and advance in your current job.

The University of Minnesota at Twin Cities differs from other programs by offering several online programs with a high return on investment for the students. The online programs range from undergraduate programs to specialized certifications and continuing education courses. It also offers graduate programs online to help students follow through with education goals when they have a busy schedule.

ROI: $418,000 
Cost: $136,000

45. Iowa State University

iowa state logo

Iowa State University offers a world-class online education to students who have limited time and opportunity to focus on traditional studies. When you are looking for the best programs with a high return on your investment, you will want to consider the online programs available through Iowa State University. The college breaks down programs based on the level of education. Students can focus on an undergraduate degree or more advanced degrees and certifications from the comfort of home. The online degree programs are ideal for out-of-state students who can study from any location and do not need to attend classes on-campus to finish their degree.

Iowa State University stands apart by offering more than 50 graduate degrees or professional certifications through their online program. It allows you to pursue a higher level of education from the comfort of your home. It is particularly helpful when you work in the military or you plan to attend the school from a different state and have limitations on your time. You can work around your schedule to finish your degree and obtain a high return on your investment.

ROI: $384,000
Cost: $129,000

46. Columbia College

Columbia College Missouri logo

Columbia College in Missouri is a private college with a high return on investment in a degree. The college offers online classes that help you stay on track when you have a complicated schedule and do not have time to attend traditional classes. It allows you to complete your degree in a timely manner and focus on your career aspirations without wasting time. You have several programs available online, so you can focus on any area of study that fits your long-term goals.

Columbia College stands out from other programs for the high return on investment and the flexibility for your degree. You can complete a degree in a fraction of the time when compared to traditional college courses. The online programs allow you to study a variety of subjects and focus on your career while also giving you the flexibility to work around your responsibilities or obligations. It offers several online degree programs that range from associate’s degrees to master’s degrees.

ROI: $224,000
Cost: $96,300

47. Michigan Technological University

distance learning programs michigan technological university logo 129991

Michigan Technological University offers many online programs with a high return on investment for students. As a technological university, the programs focus on specific degrees that help students advance in technical fields and industries. The school offers many online programs with a focus on helping students with their careers. Students can take the online classes from any location, and it is ideal for out-of-state students who may have limitations on their availability and need more flexibility for their career.

Michigan Technological University stands apart because it is an accredited program that is highly respected in a professional setting. The online classes integrate modern advances in technology for interactive studies, online communication with professors, and an immersive learning environment. Students have an opportunity to advance in their studies when it fits their schedule. They use modern communication tools to work with their peers and professors from any location in the country.

ROI: $586,000 
Cost: $172,000

48. University of Wyoming

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When you want to attend a school with a high return on your investment, you may consider the University of Wyoming. The online degree programs through the university offer out-of-state and in-state students an opportunity to advance in their career without wasting their money and time. You have a high return on your investment when you complete the degree program. It allows you to focus on your career and start working toward your goals when it fits your schedule. The online program allows you to work around your obligations and responsibilities.

The way the University of Wyoming stands out from other colleges is the options for students. You have online degree programs that range from a bachelor’s degree to a doctoral degree. You can also obtain your professional certifications or endorsements through the online program. Since you can work on every level of education and get a high return on your investment, the school is a good option for out-of-state students or those who have limited time during normal class hours.

ROI: $319,000 
Cost: $117,000

49. California State University-Fresno

California State University Fresno

When it comes to schools with a high return on your investment, you may consider California State University at Fresno. Cal State Fresno offers eight online programs for in-state and out-of-state students. Four of the online programs are fully online and four are blended or hybrid programs with some classes online and some classes in the traditional classroom environment. If you plan to study one of the advanced online degree programs, then you can work on the degree at any location and even obtain the degree while you live out of state.

California State University stands apart for the quality of education and the focus on specialized studies. While the university does not offer as many online programs as other schools, it does take an advanced approach to education. The fully online programs are master’s level and doctorate level courses. That allows students to focus on more advanced studies.

ROI: $357,000 
Cost: $125,000

50. Ferris State University

Ferris State University logo

Ferris State University offers online programs with a high return on investment for out-of-state students. The programs allow students to focus on a career goal without the complexity of working around a traditional classroom schedule. Since the online programs range from bachelors degrees to graduate degree programs, students have the opportunity to work on their long-term goals.

The way Ferris State University differs from other colleges is the focus on online degrees. The university has several online programs at every level of education. Students can also obtain professional certifications through the school to advance in their career or meet standards for continuing education. The opportunities allow out-of-state students to complete their degree in a timely manner without leaving the comforts of their home.

ROI: $307,000
Cost: $115,000

Identifying the return on investment, or ROI, on a college degree helps you determine when to seek higher education for your long-term goals. The challenge is clarifying the details about your options before you finalize your decision to pursue a degree program.

How Do You Determine ROI for a College Degree?

The college return on investment for your degree depends on a variety of factors. Determining the college degree return on investment starts with clarifying the salary for your career options based on your degree. After you know the salary expectations for your degree, you can use the information to calculate the college return on investment ranking when compared to other degrees or job opportunities.

You should also recognize that your debt or the cost of college plays a role in your return on investment. Since the cost of college continues to rise each year, it raises a concern about the possibility of higher debts that limit the impact of the returns on your investment. You want to find a balance between college loans and degree costs with potential earnings after finishing your degree program.

Is College Worth It Financially?

The financial cost of college rises each year, and it raises a concern about whether it is worth the cost to students. Before you start a program, you want to ask is college worth it? You also want to understand that differences in your major or your decisions in college may impact the answer due to the variations in your job opportunities.

As a general rule, the return on investment for a college degree is high when compared to individuals who do not have a degree. You have a greater opportunity to obtain a high-paying job after you finish your degree. The key area where a college degree stands out from a high school diploma is in an advanced career. You have greater opportunities to advance into a management position in your career. While some jobs may require a Master’s degree or higher for senior management roles, an undergraduate degree helps you get started in your career.

A college degree is worth the cost in most fields because you have higher earnings potential after graduation. You will usually make more money each year when compared to a high school graduate.

How Can I Calculate the ROI of my College?

When you want to evaluate the return on your investment in a college degree program, you can use an education ROI calculator. The college ROI calculator uses data from the costs of your degree and expectations for your salary to determine if it is a good option for your investment.

Calculating your return on investment for a degree means you add up the costs for your entire degree. You should include the tuition costs, lab costs, and any other fees that may apply to your college for a degree program. After you have a clear idea of the costs and the potential debt you may accrue, you want to find out your earnings potential. The earnings potential is the amount you expect to make in the first year of your career.

A good rule of thumb to determine if the degree is worth the investment is how much debt you expect to take on when compared to how much you expect to earn in the first year. For example, if you expect to earn $50,000 in the first year and have $30,000 in debt after completing your degree, then you are earning $20,000 more per year than you spent on your degree, and you can pay off your debt in a reasonable amount of time. The investment is not a good idea if you will take on $50,000 in debt, but only earn $30,000 after completing your degree.

The return on your investment in a college degree often makes it worth the effort of obtaining your degree. While you do want to weigh the costs with the income, and you will need to compare the details based on your major and career opportunities, many degree programs are worth the time and effort due to the high earnings potential of having a higher level of education.

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