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Economics 101: Maximizing Your College Investment

To calculate the return on a college education, PayScale examined its trove of 1.4 million pay reports from individuals using its online pay-comparison tools. For each of nearly 700 schools, it determined how much graduates earned over the past 15- and 30-year periods, over and above what a typical high school graduate earned during the same period, minus the "investment" in college. For state schools, return on investment, or ROI, was calculated twice: using in-state tuition and out-of- state tuition. Using this data visualization tool, you can map the PayScale data in numerous ways to identify schools that meet your criteria. Looking for the cheapest school for financial aid recipients in Arizona with the best 30-year ROI for graduates? Type Arizona into the search box, choose Net Cost of Degree After Aid from the pull-down menu on the left and 30-Year Net ROI (With Grants) for Graduates Only from the pull-down menu on the bottom. Individual schools show as color-coded dots. Hover over one and find the name. For additional ROI information, check out our interactive table. For definitions of the terms in the pull-down menus see the footnote below.

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Read more about College ROI

Data: PayScale, Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System

Notes: Annual Cost includes tuition and fees, room and board, books, and supplies. Total Cost of Degree is based on the annual cost and the number of years students take to graduate from each institution. Net Cost of Degree After Aid is for students receiving the 2008-09 average grant aid award at each institution each year. Discount From Aid is the difference between Total Cost of Degree and Net Cost of Degree. 6-Year Graduation Rate is for the cohort entering in the fall of 2003. 4-Year Graduation Rate is the percentage of graduates obtaining a degree within 4 years. Alumni Median Pay is for full-time, U.S.-based employees without advanced degrees who obtained their bachelors degrees from the institution since 1981; it includes only annual salary or wages and other cash compensation. Undergraduates Receiving Grant Aid is the percentage of full-time, first-time undergraduates receiving local, state, federal or institutional grant aid in 2008-09. Average Grant Aid is for grant recipients only. Net ROI is calculated several ways: for the most recent 15- and 30-year periods; for students who are and aren't grant aid recipients; and adjusted and unadjusted for graduation rates. Unadjusted Net ROI is listed as "for graduates only."