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11 Most Profitable Universities in America

If you are searching for a college that pays off check our this list of 11 most profitable universities in America. The rising costs of education have forced many students to change their priorities when choosing a college. Unlike the 70s generation who based decisions about attending a certain school on non-financial reasons, for many millennials question whether attending a particular college is a smart investment is high on the agenda. So in this ranking, we try to answer the question – can a student expect that the money they spend on tuition and fees will return once they graduate and start a career.

Most Profitable Universities in America


On this list, you will find world’s top educational institutions with a long tradition, alumni network, which includes Nobel laureates, Academy Award winners, billionaires, famous athletes, in general, people who have left the mark in a global society. Also, you will discover that graduates on our ranking earn from $61,400 to $78,000 at the beginning of their career, which is from 27 to 61 percent more compared to the average annual mean wage of $48,320 in the US. Note though that colleges, which appear on this list are not among the cheapest in America, far from it. The most expensive one charges tuition of $47,668. On the positive side, these are wealthy institutions that can afford to grant generous financial aid to a significant number of students.

In creating the ranking of most profitable universities in America, we’ve relied on Forbes’s list America’s best value colleges, which took into account tuition costs, school quality, graduation success and post-grad earnings, and Pay Scale’s report Best Universities and Colleges by Salary Potential. We’ve compared two lists to find out which schools are the most profitable today. When you finish reading this ranking, do not forget to take a look at our previous list 11 most profitable YouTube channels.

11. Yale University

Forbes’s rank: 28

Pay scale rank: 16 (early career pay – $61,400; mid-career pay $120,000)

Founded in 1701, Yale University is third-oldest higher education institution in America. The University was named by Welsh merchant Elihu Yale because of his donation of books and goods. This Ivy League institution has done a lot of pioneering work in America’s higher education – Yale was the first university to establish a scholarship for graduate studies, and award PhDs, the first science course was taught at Yale, and it is also a home of the first literary review magazine in the US. Today, Yale is one of the richest schools with assets that include endowment of 25.6 billion, which is one of the largest in the world. The list of its famous alumni includes five US presidents, US Supreme Court justice, billionaires whose net worth reaches the figure of 77 billion, dozens of Nobel laureates. Finally, compared to other colleges on the list, Yale is the most financially generous since it provides students with the average aid of $41,400 annually.

Most Profitable Universities in America

Pete Spiro/

10. Carnegie Mellon University

Forbes’s rank: 27

Pay scale rank: 12 (early career pay – $68,200; mid-career pay 125,000$)

Carnegie Mellon University was established in 1900 as the Carnegie Technical Schools. It changed its name in the mid-1960s after merging with Mellon Institute of Industrial Research. Carnegie is a home to the first degree-granting drama program whose list of notable alumni includes Emmy, Tony, Grammy, Golden Globe laureates and Academy Award Winners. Currently, one of the most famous ex-students is John Wells, director of August: Osage County. Among CMU’s alumni, you will also find Nobel Laureates, innovators, famous artists – John Nash, Java creator James Gosling, Andy Warhol. CMU is known for its efforts in environmental preservation and computer science program, which was one of the first in the country.

Most Profitable Universities in America


9. Georgia Institute of Technology

Forbes’s rank: 8

Pay scale rank: 30 (early career pay – $63,400; mid-career pay – $114,000 )

First public institution on our list, Georgia Institute of Technology was founded in 1885 with the aim of transforming the state’s agrarian economy into industrial. Today, GIT has a student population of 21,471 and five branches outside America. Georgia Tech is known for its programs in industrial engineering, computer science, mathematics, and architecture and it has been ranked among the best colleges and research institutions in the country and the world. The list of notable individuals who were students at GIT includes former US President Jimmy Carter, many successful CEOs (David Dorman – AT&T Corporation, Mike Duke – WalMart, James D. Robinson III – American Express), military commanders, astronauts, famous athletes – NBA player Chris Bosh, baseball star Kevin Brown, Bobby Jones. Georgia Tech charges the lowest tuition on the list – in-state students pay $11,394 and their peers from abroad $30,698. Also, 72 percent of students receive financial aid which averages $6,289.

Most Profitable Universities in America

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8. University of Pennsylvania

Forbes’s rank: 21

Pay scale rank: 13 (early career pay – $62,000; mid-career pay – $124,000 )

The University of Pennsylvania was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740. Pen’s history is marked by a few innovations – the University was first to adopt an interdisciplinary approach from Europe, which is still one of the institution’s distinguished features. It was also home to the first school of medicine in the US, first collegiate business school, first student union organization. As one of the best research institution in the states, Pen has been associated with many breakthrough discoveries including first general purpose electronic computer, rubella and hepatitis B vaccines, Retin-A, cognitive therapy, and so one. Additionally, according to “Billionaire Census”, the University has produced the greatest number of billionaires. Compared to other schools on the list, Pen is the most expensive one with the total costs of $64,200. Also, it has the second-smallest percent of students getting financial aid (62 percent) which averages $35,371.

Most Profitable Universities in America

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7. California Institute of Technology

Forbes’s rank: 11

Pay scale rank: 11 (early career pay – $77,000; mid-career pay – $126,000)

With a student population of 2,181, California Institute of Technology is one of the smallest schools on this list. Initially, Caltech was founded as a preparatory and vocational school in 1891 but was later transformed into a college which focuses on science and engineering. The school has remarkable 97 retention rate, and two-thirds of its undergraduate students participate in research. Despite its small size, Caltech has been affiliated with 33 Nobel laureates, while Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking were visiting professors. It is also home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. The university was ranked as the fourth best private college by Forbes, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings named it the best in the world in 2011.

Most Profitable Universities in America

Ken Wolter /

6. Princeton University

Forbes’s rank: 14

Pay scale rank: 7 (early career pay – $64,000; mid-career pay – $128,000)

Another Ivy institution on the list, Princeton, was founded in 1746 as a College of New Jersey. Compared to other institutions on our list of most profitable universities in America, Princeton has the smallest share of students who receive financial aid (60 percent). With an admittance rate of 7 percent, it is also one of the hardest schools to get in. Many distinguished individuals have been affiliated with the university, including former US President Woodrow Wilson, whose name stands on Princeton University’s public policy school. In the last few months, students have been advocating for the removal of the president’s name from programs and buildings, because of his racist views, but the initiative has been denied. Among other things, Princeton is known for its library which contains over 7 million books, including rare editions, and 6 million microfilms.

Most Profitable Universities in America

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5. Stanford University

Forbes’s rank: 12

Pay scale rank: 6 (early career pay – $70,100; mid-career pay – $130,000)

Stanford University was founded in 1885 by former California Governor Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford in the memory of their only child who died of fever. Its budget for 2015-16 has been $5.5 billion, while the university endowment is $22.2 billion. Moreover, in 2012, the California University became the first school which managed to raise more than a million of dollars during one year. And not only that Stanford is one of the richest educational institutions in the world, but its alumni are also among top-earners. The list of its notable students includes founders of Google, Instagram, Snapchat, and Yahoo. In 2012, two Stanford professors determined that universities alumni generate almost 3 trillion in annual revenue and that they have created 5.4 million jobs.

Most Profitable Universities in America

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4. University of California, Berkeley

Forbes’s rank: 1

Pay scale rank: 16 (early career pay – $60,400; mid-career pay – $120,000)

The oldest California public university, Berkeley, ranks as first on a few Forbes’s lists. Besides being named the America’s best value college, it is also No. 1 Public College and Research University. Compared to previously listed schools, Berkeley has a higher acceptance rate – 18 percent of students who apply get admitted. Berkeley can be proud of the fact that its notable students are not only distinguished scientists, but also Academy Award winners, Olympic gold medalists, Pulitzer prize winners. One of the university’s most famous alumni is Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak.

Most Profitable Universities in America

3. Harvey Mudd College

Forbes’s rank: 13

Pay scale rank: 3 (early career pay – $78,800; mid-career pay – $134,000)

The smallest college on our list, Harvey Mudd College, has the student population of only 807. Established in 1955, it is also the youngest school. Since Harvey is a part of the Claremont Colleges consortium, students have access to the facilities of other colleges, and they are also encouraged to take classes, especially outside their major field, at other schools. Pay scale ranked the school as third best by salary potential which is a slip from No. 1 spot which Harvey Mudd held for four years in a row.

Most Profitable Universities in America


2. Harvard University

Forbes’s rank: 9

Pay scale rank: 4 (early career pay – $62,600; mid-career pay – $131,000)

Founded in 1636, Harvard is America’s oldest higher education institution. In its more than a four century long history, it has positioned itself as one of the leading universities in the world in many areas. Its alumni list includes 47 Nobel Laureates, 32 US presidents, 48 Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as individuals like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeremy Lin, Natalie Portman. University’s endowment of $36 billion is the largest in the US, while last year Harvard received the highest gift of 400 million in its history. Besides Stanford, Harvard is the hardest school to get into with an admittance rate of only 6 percent.

Most Profitable Universities in America

Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Forbes’s rank: 6

Pay scale rank: 2 (early career pay – $78,000; mid-career pay – $137,000)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks as first on our list of most profitable universities in America. MIT is a leader in STEM field and the institution which allocates the greatest resources for development in America. Although annual costs of $61,030 are among the highest on the list, the great majority of MIT students receive financial aid which averages $33,790. Finally, compared to other listed schools, MIT academic community has the highest number of Nobel Laureates – 80 Nobel Prize winners have been affiliated with the university.

Most Profitable Universities in America