Colleges with biggest bang for the buck

Tuition and student debt levels are soaring. So which schools provide the best return on your investment? These five topped Payscale's list.

.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology

massachusetts institute of yechnology MIT college return investment gallery
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  • 30-year return on investment: $1,739,000
  • Avg. total college cost: $215,700
  • Avg. annual scholarships and grants: $32,550
  • Graduation rate: 93%

MIT's distinguished alumni and professors include astronauts, Nobel Prize winners and Fortune 500 CEOs.

Grads with bachelor's degrees earn average entry-level salaries of $66,874, according to the school. But alumni don't just go into scientific fields. They're also recruited for consulting, investment banking and other lucrative opportunities, according to the Cambridge, Mass.-based school.

While future salaries shouldn't be the only factor a prospective student looks at, the rising cost of college makes them an important consideration, Bardaro said.

"In a lot of ways, the choice of where to attend school has become a financial choice," Bardaro said. "[Students] need to understand what potential return they can get from that decision."

Source: PayScale
PayScale economists calculated the total median pay for a school's undergraduate alumnus over a 30-year career and compared it to that of a high school graduate who worked for 34 to 36 years. They then subtracted the college's average cost of attending -- including tuition, room and board, books and supplies -- and took scholarships and grants into account. From that, they determined the school's return on investment (in 2013 dollars). Alumni who went onto graduate school or other higher education were excluded from the calculations.
- Last updated May 02 2013 06:18 AM ET

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