In a recent PayScale.com study of 554 U.S. schools offering bachelor’s degrees, Colorado School of Mines was ranked first among public institutions for 30-year net return on investment for graduates who paid in-state tuition, and second in the same category for graduates who paid out-of-state tuition. The data was analyzed in an article published in Bloomberg Businessweek in June 2010 titled ‘College: Big Investment, Paltry Return.‘ The study has Mines tied with Harvard at No. 6 for 30-year net return on investment for graduates, ahead of Yale, Princeton, Duke, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and UC-Berkeley. And because the in-state cost of attending Mines is so much less than the private universities with which it was ranked, Mines was identified as the best value out of all schools in the study.

The PayScale study is based upon data from 1.4 million reports collected from their own online pay comparison tools. Bachelor’s degree recipients from U.S. universities and colleges who were employed full-time in the U.S. were included in the study; recipients of advanced degrees were left out. The study performed separate calculations to account for the differential between in-state and out-of-state tuition at public universities.

Among students paying in-state tuition at public universities, Mines was ranked second in the study’s most prominently featured category, 30-year net return on investment. Aimed at evaluating return on all student investments, whether a degree was granted or not, this value was calculated by multiplying the 30-year net return for graduates by the average six-year graduation rate. With a 77 percent six-year graduation rate, UC-Berkeley came in slightly ahead of Mines, which has a 68 percent graduation rate according to Payscale’s data.

Since private colleges generally have much higher graduation rates than public universities, Mines dropped down the overall rankings in this category: while Harvard’s graduation rate of 98 percent pushed it up to No. 3 for 30-year net return on investment, Mines dropped to No. 27 for in-state students and 32 for out-of-state students.

The study listed the in-state cost to graduate from Mines at $95,740, and the 30-year net ROI at $1.1 million, an annualized net ROI of 13.6 percent. Massachusetts Institute of Technology was ranked first with an ROI of nearly $1.8 million, which translates to an annualized net ROI of 12.6 percent.

Graduates are usually more concerned with their immediate futures than 30 years out. According to Payscale’s 2010-11 college graduate salary statistics, Mines graduates median starting salary is $61,600, and by mid-career, median salary is $113,000.

Students looking for that first job out of college can get a good read on the marketplace at job fairs. A record 3,100 students and alumni attended fall Career Day on Sept. 14, 2010, at the Student Recreation Center. Jean Manning-Clark, director of Mines Career Center and employer relations, says the event sold out. There were 187 recruiter booths and four resume drops for 178 organizations. The spring Career Day event will take place Feb. 8, 2011.

Brenda Gillen

Links to the Businessweek study, published in June 2010, can be found on the Mines magazine website at magazine.mines.edu.