The best public colleges

Public colleges and universities rely primarily on public funds, whereas private schools are mainly funded by tuition, donations, and endowment investment. Public schools are much cheaper for in-state residents, and educational investment is, as a rule, repaid quicker than at private universities.  Lower cost does not mean lower quality or earning potential - many of the top earning schools are public. 

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Net cost: The median annual cost of all students that receive any aid. This does not refer to the “sticker price”, the price listed by the college.

Earnings: The median earnings of all bachelor-level students 10 years after enrollment. This includes both students that do and do not graduate, across all majors.

Payback: The amount of time in years it takes to pay off the median net cost by the median earnings. For this calculation, the median earning of high school graduates (in the school’s home state) are deducted from the median earnings.

Earningsplus: The difference between the school’s median earnings and the median earnings for all schools in the same state.

Rankings: The ranking order is based on the economic score. The economic score is calculated using a school’s payback and earningsplus performance.

Net cost
Payback
Earnings
EarningsPlus
Rankings
Ranking methodology
#1 in Public Schools | #3 in National Universities

CUNY City College

New York, New York

Economic score: 0.37

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $2,385

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: Under 6 months

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $55,741

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $51

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 51%
Graduation rate: 54%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#2 in Public Schools | #4 in National Universities

University of Florida

Gainesville, Florida

Economic score: 0.45

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $6,302

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: Under a year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $64,463

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $19,742

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 32%
Graduation rate: 88%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#3 in Public Schools | #5 in National Universities

Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, Georgia

Economic score: 0.49

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,739

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1 year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $88,196

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $46,303

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 22%
Graduation rate: 90%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#4 in Public Schools | #8 in National Universities

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Economic score: 0.70

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $15,336

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $75,842

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $31,796

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 27%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#5 in Public Schools | #11 in National Universities

University of California-Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Economic score: 0.74

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $15,329

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $80,364

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $29,685

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 18%
Graduation rate: 93%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#6 in Public Schools | #12 in National Universities

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Rolla, Missouri

Economic score: 0.74

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,262

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $80,289

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $32,969

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 82%
Graduation rate: 68%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#7 in Public Schools | #16 in National Universities

University of California-Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

Economic score: 0.83

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,279

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.2 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $73,744

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $23,065

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 15%
Graduation rate: 92%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#8 in Public Schools | #17 in National Universities

University of California-San Diego

La Jolla, California

Economic score: 0.85

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,232

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $74,771

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $24,092

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 37%
Graduation rate: 89%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#9 in Public Schools | #18 in National Universities

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Economic score: 0.86

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $12,352

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $61,915

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $19,844

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 26%
Graduation rate: 90%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#10 in Public Schools | #19 in National Universities

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

Seattle, Washington

Economic score: 0.88

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $13,297

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $68,925

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $23,966

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 56%
Graduation rate: 84%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#11 in Public Schools | #21 in National Universities

University of Virginia-Main Campus

Charlottesville, Virginia

Economic score: 0.89

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $20,397

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $77,048

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $34,064

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 23%
Graduation rate: 94%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#12 in Public Schools | #22 in National Universities

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, Illinois

Economic score: 0.90

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $15,880

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.4 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,539

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $26,702

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 64%
Graduation rate: 85%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#13 in Public Schools | #23 in National Universities

Florida International University

Miami, Florida

Economic score: 0.91

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $7,296

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.1 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $54,501

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $9,780

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 58%
Graduation rate: 66%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#14 in Public Schools | #26 in National Universities

Colorado School of Mines

Golden, Colorado

Economic score: 0.92

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $26,750

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.8 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $90,060

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $44,139

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 55%
Graduation rate: 80%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#15 in Public Schools | #27 in National Universities

Michigan Technological University

Houghton, Michigan

Economic score: 0.92

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $16,463

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.5 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $73,541

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $29,495

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 71%
Graduation rate: 71%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#16 in Public Schools | #28 in National Universities

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Newark, New Jersey

Economic score: 0.93

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $19,706

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.6 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $80,043

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $34,420

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 67%
Graduation rate: 81%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#17 in Public Schools | #29 in National Universities

University of California-Irvine

Irvine, California

Economic score: 0.93

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,783

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.3 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $71,961

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $21,282

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 30%
Graduation rate: 86%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#18 in Public Schools | #32 in National Universities

California State University-Fresno

Fresno, California

Economic score: 1.01

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $5,464

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1 year

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $52,201

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $1,522

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 91%
Graduation rate: 68%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#19 in Public Schools | #33 in National Universities

University of California-Davis

Davis, California

Economic score: 1.03

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $14,669

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.4 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $69,766

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $19,087

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 47%
Graduation rate: 89%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

#20 in Public Schools | #37 in National Universities

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Edinburg, Texas

Economic score: 1.06

The economic score is calculated using two factors: 1) how fast students are able to payback their educational investment with new earnings and 2) how much alumni earn compared to all alumni in the same state, 10 years after enrollment. These two factors are referred to as payback and earningsplus.

These scorings are based on the most recent data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

View school
Net cost: $4,514

The median net cost of students who receive federal financial aid. This is lower than the price advertised by the school.

Payback: 1.1 years

Average time in years to pay back educational costs.

Earnings: $45,895

Median earnings of all students 10 years after enrollment. Includes students that did not graduate.

EarningsPlus: + $948

How much more/less money the median student earns against all bachelor students in the same state, same enrollment year.

Admission rate: 83%
Graduation rate: 60%

Schools with a graduation rate in the bottom 50% in their state are shown in red. Schools in the bottom 25% nationally are put to the end of the ranking list.

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