University of Colorado graduate Arik King says he ll get a good return on his degree thanks to a $63,000-a-year job in San Francisco.

Arik King has no trouble calculating the return on his investment in a University of Colorado education, thanks to the skills he learned at the Leeds School of Business.

King, who recently earned a degree in finance, compared the money he put into his bachelor’s degree — $130,000 in tuition over four years as an out-of-state student — to the money he will make after graduation — $63,000 a year at his new consulting job in San Francisco — and what he got was a positive result.

Return on investment

Top 10 schools’ return on investment dollars over 30 years:

1. Georgia Institute of Technology: 14.2 percent

2. Brigham Young University: 14.1 percent

3. University of Virginia: 14.1 percent

4. College of William and Mary: 13.6 percent

5. Colorado School of Mines: 13.6 percent

6. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: 13.1 percent

7. University of Michigan: 13.1 percent

8. University of California, Los Angeles: 13.1 percent

9. University of California, Berkeley: 13.1 percent

10. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: 13 percent

Colorado schools’ return on investment over 30 years:

Colorado School of Mines (in-state): 13.6 percent

Colorado School of Mines (out-of-state): 11.7 percent

University of Colorado, Boulder (in-state): 11.4 percent

University of Colorado, Denver (in-state): 11.2 percent

Colorado State University, Fort Collins (in-state): 11.1 percent

University of Colorado, Denver (out-of-state): 9.6 percent

University of Colorado, Denver (out-of-state): 9.6 percent

University of Colorado, Boulder (out-of-state): 9.2 percent

University of Northern Colorado (in-state): 9 percent

Colorado State University, Fort Collins (out-of-state): 9 percent

University of Denver (private): 8.9 percent

Colorado College (private): 8.7 percent

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (out-of-state): 8 percent

Fort Lewis College (in-state): 8 percent

University of Northern Colorado (out-of-state): 7.7 percent

Fort Lewis College (out-of-state): 6.8 percent


“The math adds up in my favor,” said King, noting that, before taxes, he stands to recoup his tuition in three years.

King’s pleased with his investment in a CU degree, and, according to a recent study by salary tracking firm, most CU-Boulder students are getting a relatively high return on their investment.

The average cost of a bachelor’s degree at CU — for someone paying in-state tuition — is $98,710, according to Thirty years after graduation, the average accumulated income for CU alumni working full-time is about $613,900, according to the study.

That’s an 11.4 percent return on investment. (For out-of-state CU graduates, with higher tuition and lower accumulated income, the return is 9.2 percent.)

By comparison, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and Stanford University top the list of‘s undergraduate incomes, but due to the high tuition at those private schools, their return on investment is only about 1 percent higher than CU’s in-state estimates.

The return at Yale University is only half a percentage higher than CU — and the Colorado School of Mines beats them all with a 13.6 percent return on investment for in-state students.

The report calculated the average cost of a bachelor’s degree at 852 universities nationwide and subtracted it from the average income accumulated by graduates, working full-time, over 30 years.

For the average CU student, a bachelor’s degree is worth the cash, Dr. Al Lee,‘s director of quantitative analysis, wrote in an e-mail.

While CU-Boulder made the top 200, for both in-state and out-of-state tuition, of the 852 schools listed on the report, there are a few factors that knock the university down a couple notches.

A “relatively high sticker price for in-state students” and a “low graduation rate for a leading state university” put CU below the top 100 schools, Lee wrote.

But those aren’t the only factors to consider when calculating the return on investment of a college degree. When it comes to the variables of the equation, the results begin to get sticky.

“I wish it were as simple as a finance equation, but it’s not,” King said. “There are so many other factors that go into deciding if your degree is worth what you put into it.”

Tamara Berkman, CU communications alumna, said while she did enjoy her experience and graduated in May debt-free, she is looking for more out of her investment.

“I’m looking at going back to grad school soon,” Berkman said. “I’m just not finding the job I was hoping for yet so I feel like getting a graduate degree would be an even better investment than my undergrad.

“I expect to see a better return from that than my bachelor’s.”

The average salary of someone with a bachelor’s degree is about $27,000 more per year than a high school graduate, according to a 2007 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Similarly, those with a master’s degree earn approximately $10,000 more then those with just a bachelor’s degree, the report stated.

Clay Cornelius, a junior at CU-Boulder, said he’s planning to transfer to CU-Denver in the fall in order to lighten his investment by taking advantage of slightly cheaper tuition.

“I don’t necessarily believe that higher tuition equals a better education in my situation,” Cornelius said. “I think coming out of college feeling like you learned what you set out to learn and with the skills to do what you really want is more important than the prestige or tuition cost of your school.”

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