WIlson hall

James Madison University also sits in the top ranks, with a No. two recommendation rate based on Higher Times Education's list.

As many people may already know, the price of attending secondary education has increased year after year. As these prices have risen, families and students may find it harder to obtain their academic goals due to financial constraints. 

As some have started to consider if the return on investment (ROI) for a college education is worth the hefty cost, others have also started to gravitate toward schools that can offer some of the greatest amenities for the cheapest price. An ROI is a metric used to consider whether or not a certain investment is effective or profitable and can be applied to many different scenarios.

Before discussing which colleges give the best ROI, it’s important to understand that this is difficult to quantify due to multiple factors, such as happiness and overall satisfaction, which can vary between individuals. Investopedia describes the calculation of ROI as the return divided by the cost and is normally quantified with a percentage.

Since the idea of an ROI for education is a broad and speculative category, there are fivedifferent criteria used in this list in order to attempt to quantify the results: Universities offering the cheapest total in-state tuition, the most financial aid, the best dormitories or living arrangements for students, the best collegiate athletics programs and highest overall student satisfaction.

Low in-state college tuition rates

College Calc found that Dine College in Tsaile, Arizona has the cheapest total in-state tuition for an academic year with $7,750. 

While No. 2 was Western International University, it’s recently closed. However, not far behind it is Chipola College (Marianna, FL) in third, Northcentral University (Scottsdale, AZ) in fourth and University of Western States (Portland, OR) in fifth. 

Although these schools are relatively unheard of on a nationwide level, they do offer the lowest rates on a great return — a college education.

In comparison to these rates, out of 2229 competitors, JMU sits at No. 935 on this list.

Best financial aid

Great Value Colleges said that Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California, offered the greatest financial aid to its students.

With just an 8:1 student-faculty ratio, Soka University can offer great financial aid for students with a good academic record, along with full-tuition scholarships for any student with a median household income under $60,000.

Following Soka University are more recognizable schools: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Virginia, Harvard and Stanford, in that order.

What’s noticeable in this trend is that some of the oldest schools with the longest standing legacies in the U.S. tend to have the ability to provide more financial aid for their students, perhaps due to the number of donations they receive and students that enroll each year.

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Top dormitories

The Princeton Review determined that High Point University (High Point, NC) had the best dormitories based on student reviews.

Following High Point came Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, at second, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (Needham, MA) at third, Texas Christian University at fourth and Emory University (Atlanta, GA) at fifth.

One observation to notice about these five colleges is that they each have a total undergrad student body of under 10,000. With this low of a number, it’s quite possible that these schools can provide greater care for their students without having to worry about overcrowding or congestion inside of the dorms.

Best athletic programs

Using data compiled from multiple sources, NSCA Sports found that Stanford University (Stanford, CA) has the best collegiate athletic programs in the nation. 

Following Stanford came other reputable schools with Princeton University (Princeton, NJ) in second, University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) in third, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) in fourth and University of California Los Angeles in fifth.

Although using collegiate athletics as a measure of ROI is relative, many universities can attract potential students with their athletics, which brings an overall pleasurable experience to the student and helps contribute toward getting a good return on their investment.

For comparison, out of 100 colleges, JMU sits at No. 62 on this list.

Recommendation rates

Higher Times Education compiled from multiple sources that Samford University (Birmingham, AL) had the highest overall recommendation rate from their students.

Following Samford at No. two is JMU, Notre Dame (Notre Dame, IN) at third, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (Belton, TX)  at fourth, and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (River Falls, WI) at fifth.

Overall, as hard as it may seem to quantify which school gives the best bang for the buck, it’s important to make sure the school is tailored to one’s needs. In the end, as long as students are happy with their choice and walk away with a degree, they’ve achieved a successful ROI. 

Will PerDieu is a junior finance major. Contact Will at perdiewg@dukes.jmu.edu.