Overall, no one state or area dominates more than another, according to the ranking results.
The ranking cites Census Bureau data from 2016, which indicates the average worker with a bachelor’s degree earns $51,600 per year—roughly $22,000 more than the average worker with a high school diploma earns and $30,000 more than a worker without a high school diploma earns.
But attending an institution of higher education is expensive. From 2006 to 2016, the cost of college tuition and fees increased by 63 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many students take on massive amounts of student loan debt in order to earn a diploma. And when education is expensive, students want to make sure they get the best value for their money.
Virginia is ranked first based on its 71 percent graduate rate and great long-term value for students. Data shows that schools in Virginia offer a 20-year average return on investment of $417,711. The state does rank toward the bottom when it comes to average net price for college attendance.
California takes the No. 2 spot based on its 20-year return on investment and low average net price. The ranking notes the state does have a high student-to-faculty ratio.
Ranked third, Wyoming boasts a 62 percent high school graduate higher-ed attendance rate and low student-to-faculty ratios.
Iowa, ranked fourth, has a 72 percent public college graduation rate and a $369,400 20-year return on investment for graduates.
Fifth-ranked North Carolina boasts some of the best community colleges in the country, according to the ranking. The state’s public colleges are fairly affordable and boasts an average graduation rate of just less than 61 percent.
Rounding out the top 10 are Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Michigan.