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Which U.S. Colleges Will Give You the Best Return on Investment?

When choosing a college or university it helps to consider your time in school as a long-term investment. Will your school not only yield a great education, but also lead to a well-paying job and leave you with manageable student loan debt? As with other investments, you should weigh the risks (i.e. debt) and rewards (i.e. early career salary) before making your selection.

LendEDU releases its annual College Risk-Reward Indicator (CRRI) Report to help you discover the schools that offer the best returns on investment. It calculates the CRRI of nearly 1,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States by dividing the average early pay of recent graduates from each school by their average student loan debt.

According to the report, graduates of schools with higher CRRI rankings might expect less financial stress early in their careers. Let’s take a look at how some schools fared on LendEDU’s 2019 CRRI Report.

Reviewing the Top 5

The cream of this year’s CRRI crop features some of the nation’s most recognizable names—Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Stanford—which rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, respectively, and one possibly surprising addition.

Princeton University achieved by far the best CRRI score in the nation (47.49), due to its average early career pay of $72,700 (9th highest) and the lowest average debt per graduate ($1,531).

Yale University climbed one spot from last year’s rankings to a second-best CRRI score of 32.71 (average early career pay: $68,300; average debt: $2,088), and Harvard University jumped four spots into 3rd with a CRRI score of 24.02 (average early career pay: $72,600; average debt: $3,023).

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Berea College rose 26 spots (CRRI: 21.21) largely because it boasts the nation’s second-lowest average debt per graduate ($1,867). And Stanford University recorded a CRRI score of 21.03 (average early career pay: $76,500; average debt: $3,637), moving up from 10th to claim the last spot in this year’s top five.

Which Schools in the Top 200 Fell the Most?

Many schools saw steep declines in their CRRI scores in the past year. Among those in the top 200 that slipped furthest down the rankings were Washington’s Whitman College, Pennsylvania’s Bucknell University, and Oklahoma’s East Central University.

Whitman College, which fell from 45th in 2018 to 123rd in this year’s edition, recorded a 2019 CRRI score of 4.88. While the school’s graduates average relatively high early career pay ($52,200), they also tend to enter the job market with substantial student loan debt ($10,697).

Bucknell University dropped 74 spots to 169th in the nation. Despite an average early career pay of $64,800, Bucknell graduates take on an average of $15,510 in debt, earning the school a 2019 CRRI score of 4.18. Similarly, East Central University fell from 61st to 133rd, recording a CRRI score of 4.71 due to an average early career pay of $44,400 and average student loan debt of $9,427.

Which Schools in the Top 200 Improved the Most?

On the other end of the spectrum, many colleges and universities made massive strides up the CRRI rankings, including Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, St. Bonaventure University, and Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University had the year’s greatest improvement, skyrocketing from 845th to 12th in the nation. Florida’s best school for return on investment recorded a 2019 CRRI score of 13.00, with recent graduates earning an average of $47,500 and taking on an average of $3,652 in debt.

Likewise, New York’s St. Bonaventure leapt 682 spots into 124th with its 2019 CRRI score of 4.86. Bonnies earn on average $46,200 per year in their first five years after leaving school with an average of $9,514 in student loan debt.

And finally, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts jumped from 680th in 2018 to 79th, with a 2019 CRRI score of 5.93. Recent alumni of this New Hampshire school average $46,100 in early career pay while owing an initial average of $7,780 in student loans.

How Does Your School Rank?

Check the 2019 CRRI Report to see where your prospects fall on the nationwide rankings. Remember to aim high if you’re looking for less financial stress fresh out of school!

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Michael Brown - Guest Contributor

Michael Brown - Guest Contributor

Michael Brown is a Research Analyst for LendEDU and a guest contributor to the McCarthy Law Debt Blog.