Is it always financially worthwhile to obtain a college degree?

Is it always financially worthwhile to obtain a four-year college degree?  Answer: no.

It depends on the return on investment (ROI).  The ROI is calculated by estimating the future earnings from the undergraduate degree less the costs of obtaining that degree, including the income lost while attending college or university to get the degree.  The future earnings from the degree will depend on the economic value of the degree.  Some degrees have much more economic value than others.

An Austin think-tank, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP), has performed the herculean task of creating  a database of the ROI for 1,775 public and private universities and 30,000 bachelor's programs.  Want to know the highest-ROI major at Arizona State?  It's construction management, with a positive ROI of $1,035,357.  Want to know the worst at ASU?  It's a degree in music, with a return of minus $391,887.  Of the ten majors at New Mexico Highlands University, would you like to know the only one that has a positive ROI?  It's all here.

FREOPP has also developed the fascinating concept of most valuable program (MVP).  The highest ROIs are for majors from elite non-profit colleges or universities.  By way of example, a Cal Tech computer sciences grad can be expected to obtain a positive ROI of $4,409,147 over his working lifetime.  Problem is that Cal Tech awards only about two dozen computer science degrees per year.  What about a program with a high ROI that graduates hundreds?  The economic impact would be enormous.  By this standard, the #1 MVP program in the country is the nursing program at the University of Texas, Arlington.  Between 2015 and 2017, it graduated 5,363 with a per capita student ROI of $743,465 for a total of $3,987,197,432.

FREOPP has created a great resource.  Spread the word.

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