Study: Some State Universities Offer A Better Return On Investment Than Ivy Leagues

Sure, everyone has a hope that their kid can go to Harvard, Princeton — or even Brown, the Staten Island of the Ivy League — but a new study that compares how much graduates earn to what it cost for that framed piece of paper on the wall shows that there are many less expensive public universities that offer a better return on investment.

The study, by the folks at SmartMoney, looked at graduates from the nation’s 50 priciest schools. Researchers came up with a “Payback Score” by comparing how much the classes of 2009 and 1997 each spent for their education against how much each of these graduating classes are earning now.

Georgia Tech scored the highest in the study. The median salary for Tech’s class of 2009 is $59,000 and the total cost for four years was $87,810. The class of ’97 is now taking home a median salary of $102,000 and they only spent $30,249 for school.

The highest median salary for the class of 2009 was from the Colorado School of Mines, with $64,200. However, it cost those students $90,334 for an education. Additionally, the median salary for those who graduated in 1997 is only slightly higher than Georgia Tech’s at $105,000, while those students paid much more ($52,087) than their counterparts in Georgia. Thus, the Colorado School of Mines comes in at #9 on the list.

The Ivy League doesn’t even show up until the 18th spot, where Princeton comes in right behind the greatest university ever: The University of Virginia, which also happens to be the alma mater of yours truly. Princeton’s class of 2009 is earning a median salary of $58,300, which is almost as high as Georgia Tech’s median number. However, the $131,740 spent in tuition could make you wonder if it’s worth it.

And it just may be, when you compare the long-term earning potential, as the 1997 class from Princeton has a median salary of $137,000, by far the highest dollar figure in the study.

The most expensive school on the list is that crown jewel of Yonkers, NY, (not counting the Consumer Reports HQ, of course) Sarah Lawrence College. Even though the class of 2009 spent $148,570 for a four-year degree, the median salary is only $39,800, far below the average of $47,790 for all 2009 grads from these 50 schools.

And there doesn’t appear to be much long-term benefit of having a Sarah Lawrence degree, as the class of 1997 is only earning a median income of $72,800, having spent nearly $81,000 on tuition. Meanwhile, the average ’97 grad from the 50 schools in the study is significantly higher at $87,257.