higher education

Ranking report: Is your state among the best for higher education?

New ranking evaluates return on investment, graduation rates and other criteria.

Virginia tops a new ranking that analyzes the best states for higher education. The state took the No. 1 spot based on its ability to educate its residents and high graduation rates.

The annual list, from financial technology company SmartAsset, compares four-year public colleges and universities using various metrics such as undergraduate graduation rates, average net price, 20-year return on investment (ROI), and the student-faculty ratio.

Virginia consistently appears in the annual ranking’s top states. It has one of the highest average graduation rates in the study (70 percent); and the average 20-year ROI for graduates is $442,660–the fourth-highest ROI in the study. For 2017, both the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary rank among the top 10 public universities in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Rounding out the top 5 are:

California: The state’s average graduation rate is 63 percent–the eighth-highest in the country. Plus, the state of California has the second-highest ROI in that U.S. Graduates earn an average ROI of $459,656 over the course of 20 years.

(Next page: How the rest of the states stacked up)

Delaware: For the third year in a row, Delaware ranks as the state with the highest average graduation rate in the country. About 73 percent of the state’s students who attend a public university earn a bachelor’s degree. At 79 percent, the University of Delaware’s graduation rate is slightly higher than the state’s weighted rate. Over the course of 20 years, the average return on investment for Delaware State University and UD alumni is roughly $434,034.

Iowa: The average graduation rate across its public colleges and universities is 68.6 percent. That’s the third-highest graduation rate in the nation. The 20-year ROI for graduates of schools like Iowa State University and the University of Iowa is $387,049.

New Jersey (tie): Across all public colleges and universities in the Garden State, the average graduation rate is 66 percent, which is the fourth-highest rate in the U.S. There are nearly 16 students for every faculty member and the average 20-year return on investment for graduates of New Jersey’s higher education system is $394,232. That’s the 10th-highest ROI in the country.

North Carolina (tie): Nearly 65,600 high school students in North Carolina enrolled in one of the state’s public two- or four-year universities in 2014. So the number of first-time, in-state students is equal to 65 percent of the state’s 2014 high school graduates. This means that North Carolina has the ninth-highest in-state attendance rate in the U.S.

Nevada took last place, coming in at No. 50. The student-faculty ratio for colleges in the Silver State is higher than average, according to the study. The state also has a low average graduation rate. Georgia, Maine and Idaho are among the other states that ranked poorly.

The factors are averages weighted based on each school’s total undergraduate enrollment, so larger schools have a greater impact on the overall average in every state.

The research team also calculated the in-state attendance rate to assess whether states can effectively educate their own residents. The top 15 percent of states received an A or A- and the bottom 15 percent received an F.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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