The 20 US colleges with the best return on your investment 40 years after you’ve enrolled

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce published a study titled “A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 colleges.”
  • It ranks universities by their return on investment (ROI) for students 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40 years after enrollment.
  • Forty years after enrollment, the top 20 schools with the highest ROI include four maritime or Marine institutions and two Ivy League schools. The top three spots are claimed by pharmacy colleges.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A degree from a small New York pharmacy college is more likely to give you a better bang for your buck than a pricey Ivy League school, according to a new report.

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) published a study titled “A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 colleges” on Thursday that lists US colleges by their return-on-investment measures (ROI) in 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40 years after enrollment.

The ROI measure of the study is called “net present value” (NPV), which Georgetown University CEW defines as “how much a sum of money in the future is valued today.” NPV includes measures such as costs, future earnings, and “length of time it would take to invest and earn a certain amount of money over a fixed horizon.”

Georgetown University CEW found that after 40 years, private colleges had a higher average ROI for bachelor’s degrees than public colleges. It also found that certificate programs and community colleges had the highest ROI rankings at the 10-year post-enrollment milestone, but they were surpassed by bachelor’s degrees in the long term.

Of the top 20 universities, four were either maritime or Marine institutions, and two were Ivy League schools. The top three schools with the highest NPV after 40 years were all pharmacy colleges: MCPHS University, St. Louis College of Pharmacy, and Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

On Business Insider’s list, we also provide two additional measures for each university from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard: six-year graduation rate for first-time bachelor’s students (based on data from the 2017-2018 academic year) and median student loan principal at the start of repayment (based on data from the 2016-2017 academic year).


20. Bentley University

Location: Waltham, Massachusetts

Graduation rate: 91%

Median debt: $25,000

10-year NPV: $158,000

40-year NPV: $1,786,000


19. Colorado School of Mines

Location: Golden, Colorado

Graduation rate: 78%

Median debt: $21,915

10-year NPV: $203,000

40-year NPV: $1,794,000


18. California Institute of Technology

Location: Pasadena, California

Graduation rate: 89%

Median debt: $11,500

10-year NPV: $200,000

40-year NPV: $1,810,000


17. California State University Maritime Academy

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Timothy White, chancellor of the California State University system, speaks during the unveiling ceremony by the academy of its Maritime Safety and Security Center in Richmond, California (2015).
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Anda Chu/Getty Images

Location: Vallejo, California

Graduation rate: 64%

Median debt: $20,500

10-year NPV: $265,000

40-year NPV: $1,818,000


16. University of Pennsylvania

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Presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren teaching at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1990s.
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Leif Skoogfors/Corbis via Getty Images

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Graduation rate: 96%

Median debt: $12,500

10-year NPV: $220,000

40-year NPV: $1,832,000


15. Stevens Institute of Technology

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A general view of the Stevens Ducks pitch ahead of squad training at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
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Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile/Getty Images

Location: Hoboken, New Jersey

Graduation rate: 83%

Median debt: $26,000

10-year NPV: $162,000

40-year NPV: $1,833,000


14. Harvey Mudd College

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Students and others gather at Beckman Hall on the grounds of the Harvey Mudd College Campus in Pomona.
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Ted Soqui/Corbis/Getty Images

Location: Claremont, California

Graduation rate: 96%

Median debt: $21,254

10-year NPV: $187,00

40-year NPV: $1,851,000


13. Massachusetts Maritime Academy

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Members of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy stand before participating in the 2019 Veterans Day Parade in NYC.
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Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Location: Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

Graduation rate: 75%

Median debt: $23,250

10-year NPV: $246,00

40-year NPV: $1,869,00


12. St. Paul’s School of Nursing – Queens

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A nurse.
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Hero Images/Getty Images

Location: Queens, New York

Graduation rate: 54% for less-than-four-year degree students

Median debt: $20,000

10-year NPV: $354,000

40-year NPV: $1,877,000


11. University of the Sciences

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Graduation rate: 73%

Median debt: $27,000

10-year NPV: $211,000

40-year NPV: $1,928,000


10. United States Merchant Marine Academy

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Merchant Marine Academy graduation.
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Spencer Pratt/ Getty

Location: Kings Point, New York

Graduation rate: 74%

Median debt: $27,00

10-year NPV: $298,000

40-year NPV: $1,949,000


9. Georgetown University

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Georgetown University.
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lillisphotography/Getty Images

Location: Washington, DC

Graduation rate: 95%

Median debt: $14,750

10-year NPV: $198,000

40-year NPV: $1,950,000


8. Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Graduation rate: 96%

Median debt: $7,000

10-year NPV: $286,000

40-year NPV: $1,967,000


7. Babson College

Location: Babson Park, Massachusetts

Graduation rate: 92%

Median debt: $24,875

10-year NPV: $184,000

40-year NPV: $1,985,000


6. Maine Maritime Academy

Location: Castine, Maine

Graduation rate: 69%

Median debt: $27,000

10-year NPV: $251,000

40-year NPV: $2,043,000


5. Stanford University

Location: Stanford, California

Graduation rate: 94%

Median debt: $10,874

10-year NPV: $307,000

40-year NPV: $2,068,000


4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Abhijit Banerjee, one of the three winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, speaks at a news conference MIT in Cambridge (2019).
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Brian Snyder/Reuters

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Graduation rate: 94%

Median debt: $15,346

10-year NPV: $311,000

40-year NPV: $2,273,000


3. MCPHS University

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Brant House on Huntington Avenue in Boston, where the president of MCPHS University lives, is pictured on Aug. 5, 2017.
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Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

(Formerly known as the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences)

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Graduation rate: 74%

Median debt: $25,000

10-year NPV: $247,000

40-year NPV: $2,421,000


2. St. Louis College of Pharmacy

Location: St. Louis, Missouri

Graduation rate: 71%

Median debt: $19,500

10-year NPV: $389,000

40-year NPV: $2,714,000


1. Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

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A pharmacist works at an internal pharmacy run by Walgreens at a Cisco health clinic at Cisco Systems in San Jose, California (2018).
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Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage

Location: Albany, New York

Graduation rate: 76%

Median debt: $25,000

10-year NPV: $385,000

40-year NPV: $2,714,000