Which colleges are worth the investment?


Your college education may well be the largest investment you ever make. Tuition costs are up again this year, as they have been every year in recent memory, and four years of higher education will run up a bill in excess of six figures for many students. Most will take out loans, and many will still be paying on those loans 20 years from now. Yikes.

You see why it's important to pick the right school? In a new twist on college rankings, SmartMoney has put together a list of the Colleges That Pay Off. SmartMoney looks at the cost of a degree at each school, and then the average income of alumni five and 15 years after graduation, then gives each school a payback ratio, which highlights the relationship between education costs and future earning power. A higher number is better.

With a payback ratio of 338%, the University of Georgia tops off the list of public universities. The top private school in the survey was Washington and Lee University, with a 145% payback ratio. Those private school tuitions really make a dent. SmartMoney gave the Ivy League schools their own category, with Princeton topping the list with a 132% ratio. Still think those Ivy League degrees are worth more? If only ego factored into the equation.

The debate rages on over where you go for the best education, but strictly speaking in terms of numbers, it's the public state universities that churn out the highest-paid graduates. The Princeton alum may have the bigger head, but Bulldogs have bigger houses.