With all that methodology out of the way, we can get to the fun stuff. Here's the first big fat list: The ten schools with the highest-earning graduates over the next 20 years. By this measure, Harvey Mudd is America's one million-dollar college.
Harvey Mudd's record here is impressive. But its net cost is more than twice as much as Harvard's due to their disparity in grant aid. So it's also useful to look at annualized ROI—the "bang-for-your-buck" measure.
By that dollar-for-dollar measure, the best college investment isn't Harvey Mudd, Cal Tech, MIT, or any of those schools you might expect. It's the University of Virginia (if you're an in-state student) and Georgia Tech. Harvard and Stanford also crack the top 10. (Alert: I've shortened the Y-axis here to highlight just how far ahead UVA and Georgia Tech are.)
Everybody graduates from college with a major. So I wanted to know not just which college grads get richest but which college majors are the tickets to richness? PayScale tracks that, too. And no degree in America is more valuable than a computer-science major at Stanford, Columbia, or Berkeley. Notably, the most valuable non-computer-science major in the country is also at Stanford: economics.
But once again, for dollar-for-dollar investment, nothing beats going to the University of Virginia as an in-state student. PayScale found that a degree in business, or computer science, or engineering, or economics at UVA has a higher dollar-for-dollar return than any major at any other school in the country. Yes, better than majoring in finance at Harvard, or computer science at Stanford, or business at Berkeley, or anything at Harvey Mudd.
It's important to be clear about what this study is telling us and what it's not telling us. The fact that the most valuable colleges here seem so predictable is an interesting data point, because the predictably best colleges tend to get the best students. So what you're seeing here isn't just the quality of the school's education but also the quality of the students it attracts.