University of California Berkeley
Melanie Stetson Freeman—AP
By Kara Brandeisky
April 10, 2015

Anyone with a mind for business has the same question about college: What’s the return on my investment? If I’m going to take on some $28,400 in student debt, will that stake pay off in a lifetime of higher earnings?

Economists generally agree that a college degree pays off, but new research from PayScale has even better news for students planning on majoring in business: You don’t have to go to a pricey private school to reap the biggest return. In fact, you’re often better off at a state school.

PayScale calculates the expected “return”for colleges all around the country—how much more graduates earn over 20 years compared to high school grads, minus the total cost of school (everything from tuition to books) and the four years of income you give up while you’re studying.

The best return on investment for business majors? An education at the University of California-Berkeley (which overall ranks as the 13th best college value in MONEY’s Best Colleges list). Apparently the road to business success is lined with Birkenstocks.

The total in-state tuition and expenses is over $34,000, and the average borrower leaves Berkeley with $23,360 in loans. But that pays off with a median $1,133,100 return on investment over 20 years.

Precocious young investors might see those numbers a different way: That’s a 12.2% annualized ROI. Good luck finding that kind of return in the stock market.

And nine more public schools make the top 25 list: University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, Rutgers, University of Washington, UCLA, SUNY at Binghamton, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California-San Diego, and Cal Poly.

Read next: 10 Great Colleges for Business Majors

Why do public institutions fare so well? “It’s likely a combo of lower tuition costs and location,” Lydia Frank of PayScale writes in an email. “You’ll notice that many of the public schools that rank well on that list are located in places like California where salaries tend to be higher. If alumni are sticking around after graduation, they’re going to fare better than students who went to public school somewhere in the Midwest and ended up working there.”

School 20-year net return on investment Total 2014-2015 tuition and expenses (on campus; in-state rates)
1. University of California-Berkeley $1,133,100 $34,356
2. University of Pennsylvania $1,039,000 $64,200
3. Babson College $762,800 $62,440
4. Santa Clara University $756,200 $61,638
5. University of Virginia $745,100 $27,010
6. Cornell University $730,000 $63,606
7. New York University $693,700 $66,022
8. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $664,300 $25,650
9. Rutgers University-New Brunswick $655,400 $29,933
10. Lehigh University $653,800 $58,835
11. Villanova University $650,100 $60,694
12. University of Washington-Main Campus $643,800 $26,698
13. University of California-Los Angeles $637,500 $32,978
14. SUNY at Binghamton $636,900 $23,648
15. Georgia Institute of Technology $636,300 $24,748
16. University of California-San Diego $635,000 $31,254
17. Loyola University Maryland $620,200 $59,925
18. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo $619,800 $24,683
19. Saint Mary’s College of California $611,000 $59,327
20. George Washington University $609,800 $63,210
21. Brigham Young University $605,700 $12,150
22. Washington University in St. Louis $605,000 $66,376
23. University of Notre Dame $596,600 $62,461
24. American University $595,100 $59,120
25. Hofstra University $589,200 $56,046

Of course, part of the reason those nine public schools offer such a high return on investment is because your upfront cost is much smaller when you pay in-state tuition. But even when you consider the cost for out-of-staters, public institutions top the list. Case in point: You’re still best off going to Berkeley, even if you have to pay more than $57,000 a year in out-of-state tuition.

School 20-year net return on investment Total 2014-2015 tuition and expenses (on campus; out-of-state rates)
1. University of California-Berkeley $1,041,600 $57,234
2. University of Pennsylvania $1,039,000 $64,200
3. Babson College $762,800 $62,440
4. Santa Clara University $756,200 $61,638
5. Cornell University $730,000 $63,606
6. New York University $693,700 $66,022
7. Lehigh University $653,800 $58,835
8. Villanova University $650,100 $60,694
9. University of Virginia $643,700 $56,196
10. Loyola University Maryland $620,200 $59,925
11. Saint Mary’s College of California $611,000 $59,327
12. George Washington University $609,800 $63,210
13. Brigham Young University $605,700 $12,150
14. Washington University in St. Louis $605,000 $66,376
15. Rutgers University-New Brunswick $603,900 $44,711
16. SUNY at Binghamton $600,900 $35,288
17. University of Notre Dame $596,600 $62,461
18. American University $595,100 $59,120
19. Hofstra University $589,200 $56,046
20. Boston College $588,900 $63,022
21. Wentworth Institute of Technology $583,600 $49,855
22. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $583,300 $50,732
23. California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo $574,600 $35,843
24. Wittenberg University $573,800 $50,562
25. University of Washington-Main Campus $572,600 $47,817

Notes: Cost of tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies; does not include the salaries of college graduates who went on to get more advanced degrees; schools excluded if PayScale does not have statistically significant samples of earnings data.

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