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Bucknell Rated One of the Best in "Bang for the Buck"

September 28, 2015

SmartMoney college rankings gauge ‘value’ of public, private schools

Bucknellians Bring Home the Bacon

Photo credit: Stephanie Gross, Washington Post

By Daniel de Vise, Washington Post

A seminar at the University of Virginia, a good collegiate value. (Stephanie Gross - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST) SmartMoney magazine has taken an interesting and refreshingly simple approach to measuring value in higher education.

In a new analysis, the publication scores and ranks colleges by the average salaries of their graduates in proportion to the tuition they paid as students.

As a “value” metric, it’s far from perfect. For one thing, the analysis doesn’t account for aid, which reduces the net price of Ivy League schools by half or more for many students. But a quick glance at the sortable chart gives a good hint at which colleges, public and private, tend to yield well-paid graduates.

The report takes two snapshots of earnings: one for students just out of college, and another for those at mid-career.

Consider the University of Virginia. New graduates pay an average of about $107,395 for four years of study and earn, on average, $50,000 in their first job. Mid-career graduates paid less when they attended U-Va., $50,140, but earn a hefty $93,900, on average. Those figures are good enough for a Payback Ratio of 117, meaning that graduates overall earn a bit more every year than they spent to attend the university. U-Va. ranks 16th on the SmartMoney list, the best showing of any D.C.-area school.

Sort the database for some interesting facts.

Dartmouth graduates earn the most of any college on the SmartMoney list at mid-career, $123,000. Dartmouth ranks high overall, at 21, just about the best showing for any private university, reflecting its distinct pedigree as an Ivy League school with a strong career focus.

Carnegie-Mellon grads earn the most just after graduation, $62,400. The university ranks 23rd in overall value, very high for a private institution.

Sarah Lawrence College rings up the highest tuition and living expenses in the nation, $148,570 — remember, again, that the figure does not account for student aid. In overall value, it ranks a respectable 50. Sarah Lawrence grads earn a lot.

Here are the top 10 schools, public and private, for value:


1. Georgia Tech (221 “Payback Ratio”)

2. UT Austin (194)

3. University of Florida (191)

4. University of Georgia (186)

5. University of Illinois (184)

6. Clemson University (160)

7. Purdue University (152)

8. Colorado School of Mines (149)

9. Miami University (Ohio) (146)

10. UC Berkeley (146)


1. Princeton (102)

2. Dartmouth (100)

3. Harvard (99)

4. Carnegie-Mellon (99)

5. Bucknell (99)

6. University of Pennsylvania (25)

7. Colgate (95)

8. University of Richmond (93)

9. Cornell (92)

10. Yale (91)
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