Person holding a stack of hundred dollar bills to show return on investment.

CU Denver earns a top spot on Georgetown University’s ROI report

November 18, 2019

Is earning an undergraduate degree from CU Denver worth it? According to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), the answer is a resounding yes. 

The CEW used data from College Scorecard to rank 4,500 4-year and 2-year colleges and universities nationwide by students’ return on investment (ROI)—the economic gain from a college education. Data was only collected for current undergraduate students who received some form of federal financial aid.

Among 4-year public universities in Colorado, CU Denver came in at No. 2, second only to Colorado School of Mines. CU Denver ranked ahead of CU Boulder at No. 3 and Colorado State University at No. 4—with a 40-year ROI of nearly $1.2 million.  

“These findings reaffirm to our students and families the long-term value of earning a degree from CU Denver,” said Linda S. Bowman, PhD vice provost and senior vice chancellor of student success “We are not only preparing students to be the leaders of tomorrow, we are also ensuring their investment in their education pays off in their future career.”

The study, titled “A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 Colleges,” ranks ROI using NPV estimation (Net Present Value), which is defined as how much a sum of money in the future is valued today. This metric includes costs, future earnings, and the length of time it would take to invest and earn a certain amount of money over a fixed horizon. 

CU Denver’s net price stands out among peers

Points of reference that worked in CU Denver’s favor were its low net price (the cost of tuition after financial aid), lower than average student loan debt, and higher than average earnings after graduation. 

Some of these findings were echoed in WalletHub’s 2020’s Best Universities Ranking, in which CU Denver landed at No. 102 among more than 1,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. The study compared higher-education institutions across 33 key measures, including graduation rates, percentage of international students, and ROI. CU Denver stood out in part due to its net price, which was lower than its peers. 

The conclusion: college is worth it

Among CEW’s key findings are 1) that public colleges, where tuition is lower and students accumulate less debt, lead to better returns than private colleges at the 10-year horizon, and 2) that ten years after enrollment, the median net present value for all colleges is $107,000, and at the 40-year mark, that number rises to $723,000—which means CU Denver is well above the national average.

Authors of the report conclude that yes, college is worth it, and students and parents should utilize the data to make informed decisions on where to attend college. “Not only will it help students, but this kind of information on the costs and benefits of higher education holds institutions more accountable,” Dr. Anthony P. Carnevale, lead author and CEW director, said in a media release.