25 universities with the best return on investment

(MoneyWatch) If you want to attend the college providing graduates with the best return on their investment, take a look at Harvey Mudd College.

Students who receive a bachelor's degree from Harvey Mudd, an elite engineering and liberal arts college in Southern California, should earn roughly $2,113,000 million (after subtracting the cost of the college) over the next three decades, according to Payscale's new College Education ROI Rankings. This is the second year in a row that Harvey Mudd, whose degree will cost more than $250,000, has captured first place.

California Institute of Technology, which can claim 32 Nobel Prize winners, came in second place in the ROI competition. The school's typical graduate with a bachelor's degree should expect cumulative earnings, after college costs are subtracted, of $1,991,000 over 30 years..

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Not surprisingly, engineering schools excelled in this ROI survey. The average ROI for all engineering schools surveyed was $1,208,383.

Some of the schools that landed in the top 25 list will be strangers to most Americans, including SUNY-Maritime College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Top 25 schools with the best ROI

  1. Harvey Mudd College $2,113,000
  2. California Institute of Technology $1,991,000
  3. Polytechnic Institute of New York University $1,622,000
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $1,606,000
  5. SUNY Maritime College $1,586,000
  6. Colorado School of Mines $1,574,000
  7. SUNY Maritime (nonresidents) $1,442,000
  8. Colorado School of Mines (nonresidents) %1,510,000
  9. Stevens Institute of Technology $1,461,000
  10. Stanford University $1,432,000
  11. Georgia Institute of Technology $1,389,000
  12. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology $1,354,000
  13. Claremont McKenna College $1,341,000
  14. Harvard University $1,334,000
  15. Worcester Polytechnic Institute $1,316,000
  16. Massachusetts Maritime Academy $1,316,000
  17. Georgia Institute of Technology (nonresidents) $1,304,000
  18. Santa Clara University $1,282,000
  19. Dartmouth College $1,262,000
  20. Massachusetts Maritime Academy (nonresidents) $1,259,000
  21. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute $1,254,000
  22. Williams College 1,254,000
  23. University of Notre Dame $1,250,000
  24. Princeton University $1,234,000
  25. Babson College $1,228,000
  26. South Dakota School of Mines & Technology $1,228,000

 The schools missing the cut

To understand why many elite schools didn't make the list and some relatively unknown institutions did, you have to understand something about PayScale's ROI methodology. The firm calculated only salaries of students who earned a bachelor's degree. Students who received advanced degrees were excluded from the study. This would impact the results at some elite research universities and prestigious liberal arts colleges, where a significant portion of graduates earn other degrees. 

Also, in the past, Payscale's formula also took into account the percentage of students at each school that graduate.