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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.

.  Polytechnic Institute

polytechnic institute of new york university college return investment gallery
  • 30-year return on investment: $1,728,000
  • Avg. total college cost: $214,300
  • Avg. annual scholarships and grants: $23,534
  • Graduation rate: 54%

One of the nation's oldest private engineering schools, Polytechnic Institute of New York University offers a technology-focused education in fields like engineering, science and computer science.

"There's a whole atmosphere where you're at at the forefront of technology as it's evolving," said President Katepalli Sreenivasan. Many grads enter booming fields like cybersecurity or biotechnology, he said.

A degree from the Brooklyn, N.Y., university will get slightly more costly in 2014 when it officially becomes NYU's School of Engineering. Tuition will increase gradually over a five-year period, Sreenivasan said.

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.
  @melhicken - Last updated May 02 2013 06:18 AM ET

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