Erik Presley (USA)

Make Sure Your College Tuition Pays You Back

by Erik Presley | August 4, 2011 | Erik Presley (USA) 0 Comments

As international education consultants we use research, statistics, experience and history to help define what our counsel should be for families to gain the greatest value from their higher education investment. We have defined a set of characteristics that should guide any family in making such an important decision as to which university their child should attend for undergraduate study. One can find those 13 Characteristics of Excellence on our web site.

Two that we want to focus on here in this piece is the idea that for undergraduate study a student will benefit more from a private institution over a public institution. Secondly, is the track record of the university in producing leaders and distinguished alumni.

In PayScale’s 2010 report on tuition pay back or return-on-investment (ROI) you will see that out of the top 100 universities only 31% were state universities. That means 69% were private universities. Out of the 1000 plus universities listed on their report ELI 360 partner universities ranked very high on ROI. Please note that not all colleges and universities were surveyed by PayScale.

Here is the list below.


School Name

Type Category 2010 Cost 30 Year Net ROI

Annual ROI


Abilene Christian Private Private $127,200 $322,300 8.5%


Dallas Baptist Private Private $105,500 $286,800 8.7%


LeTourneau Private Private $130,200 $424,600 9.1%


Lipscomb Private Private $127,200 $294,500 8.2%


Pacific Lutheran Private Private $155,800 $457,100 8.9%


Spring Arbor Private Private $118,900 $222,200 7.7%


U Mary Hardin-Baylor Private Private $123,600 $123,200 6.4%


Valparaiso Private Private $150,200 $495,300 9.2%

Look beyond college costs, check your ROI.


Data Set Characteristics: All data used to produce PayScale’s Return on Investment (ROI) Package were collected from employees who successfully completed PayScale’s employee survey.
Bachelors Only:
Only employees who possess a Bachelor’s Degree and no higher degrees are included. This means Bachelor graduates who go on to earn a Master’s degree, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, or other advanced degree are not included.
For some Liberal Arts, Ivy League, and highly selective schools, graduates with degrees higher than a bachelor’s degree can represent a significant fraction of all graduates. Careers that require advanced degrees, such as law or medicine, are not included.
U.S. Only:
All reports are for graduates of schools from the United States who work in the United States. This sample does not include U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico or Guam.
Full-Time Employees Only:
Only graduates who are employed full-time and paid with either an hourly wage or an annual salary are included. Self-Employed, project-based, and contract employees are not included. For example, project-based graphic designers and architects, and nearly all small business owners and novelists, are not included.

Return on Investment (ROI) Calculations:

In calculating the return on investment, we must first determine the investment in college and the return from attending college. The investment is the cost of college as determined by the actual cost of attending college. The return (gain) is the additional expected future income stream received for being a college graduate.

Investment in college: This investment in college is the cost of attending college, as calculated by the Weighted Total Cost for a Graduate in 2010 or the Weighted Net Cost for a Graduate in 2010 (for those who get financial aid) as defined above.

Return from attending college: The main financial benefit of attending college is the gain in income received by a college graduate over a high school graduate. However, by choosing to attend college, one is giving up 4-6 years of income one could have received if one went straight to work after high school. Therefore, we calculate the gain in median pay over a high school graduate (Earnings Differential) as the difference between the 30-Year Median Pay for a 2010 Bachelor’s Graduate and Weighted 34-36 Year Median Pay for a High School.payscale

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