Is college worth it? Where in Utah you can get the most out of your education

August 29, 2023 (ABC4)

As the cost of college continues to rise exponentially, many degree-seekers are wondering if education beyond high school is worth the money. Others just want to get the most education at the lowest cost.

New research from the Utah Foundation, an independent non-profit public research organization, has revealed that continuing education after high school is still worth the time. Their research also revealed what schools and degrees earn students the biggest return on their investments.

The Utah Foundation found that students with more education today, still earn more than those with a high school diploma.

“Perhaps as expected, doctoral programs in Utah tended to come out on top when calculating income minus debt payments, followed by master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, associates degrees, and undergrad certificates,” said lead author and Utah Foundation President Shawn Teigen. “To put these Returns of Investments into context, five years after completion, 85% of credential holders earn more than the average high-school graduate.”


OK, so nothing is exactly groundbreaking there. So where should Utah students go if they want to get the greatest return on their investment? According to the Utah Foundation, it depends on your degree.

The Utah Foundation used Net Present Values, or the amount of future earnings of additional education minus the costs of education, to determine the greatest ROI. Weber State University topped the chart for the best NPV over a 10-year period, though only by a slim margin. The Utah Foundation has a 10-year NPV of $234,000, just slightly above the next-ranked Neumont College of Computer Science.

Neumont did rank top for four-year institutions over a 40-year period for NPV. BYU and the University of Utah both ranked just behind Neumont while Weber State University and Westminster College rounded out the Top 5.

The type of your degree also has a big influence on the amount of money you’ll see back from your educational investment. Utah Foundation research showed a computer and information sciences Associate’s Degree from Salt Lake Community College made about $30,000 more in first-year returns than a design and applied arts degree.

“There’s a lot of talk about whether post-secondary education is worth it. Sure, it might not be what it used to be – particularly in the face of increasing costs,” said Teigen. “Nonetheless, whether Utahns are getting certificates, certifications, associates degrees, or bachelor’s degrees, the more education they have after high school, the more likely they are on the path toward greater economic and social benefits.”

Interested in knowing more? The full research report can be found on Utah Foundation’s website here.

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