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Ididio Explores
College costs: can you get more than you pay for?
You absolutely do not need to pay the top price to find the top quality! We’ll help you get more than you pay for with a college that’s made for you!

You can find good quality for low costs

We rated each college and university’s alumni outcomes from best to poor and looked at the average annual total costs, including living expenses, for all students. (Public colleges reflect in-state attendees only.) At every level of alumni outcomes, there are low-cost options and high-cost options.

A private college or university may be as affordable as your public options.

In the following graphic, each school is a represented with a dot, and sized by the number of undergraduates attending with color representing institutional control:

  • Public control: these colleges and universities offer bargains within their own state, as shown by their placement on the left-hand side of the graphic, but the out-of-state cost is likely to be significantly higher.
  • Private not-for-profit control: these institutions are funded primarily by endowment donations and growth, as well as by tuition. They include the most elite colleges and universities, as well as institutions at every level of quality. It may surprise you to see that a private college or university can be as affordable as your public options.
  • Private for-profit control: these institutions operate with profit as their goal and are funded almost entirely by tuition revenue. You’ll notice in the graphic that they can be expensive and they often don’t measure well in alumni outcomes in comparison to the other two groups.

We gave the best outcomes ratings to colleges and universities that were in the top 10% for both graduation rates and federal loan repayments, and trickled down to the lowest ratings for those in the lowest 10% in both categories. You can read the details in the Methodology section below.

Costs by alumni performance and institutional control
Show published costs
Total published tuition, fees, books, and supplies can be a misleading representation of cost
$0$20K$40K$60K$80KAverage annual costsPoorWorrisomeFairGoodBest
Public in-state
2018 IPEDS
2019 College Scorecard

Published tuition costs are fake news

Published costs reflect the costs of the students who pay full tuition, but at many private institutions very few students actually pay full price. A high number of private colleges and universities practice the offering of scholarships to defray tuition costs as a method of tuition discounting. Do not be misled by published tuition costs, especially in the age of COVID when those prices may be even more off the mark than ever.

Take a moment and check the box above the strip chart at the top of the page to use the published tuition, fees, books, and supplies as a measure of cost. You’ll see that the costs grow even though they no longer include living expenses, and there’s a widened gap between public and not-for-profit institutions that does not reflect reality.

Use the filters and table below to discover the colleges and universities that balance student costs with terrific alumni outcomes.

Explore school selectivity and alumni outcomes
Limit your list of colleges and universities
Show only schools in this collection
Show schools in this net price range
Show schools with this outcomes rating
Restrict the schools to these states
Colleges and universities by cost and alumni outcomes
Select a row to see Ididio’s school page!

2018 IPEDS
2019 College Scorecard

In addition to this summary table, Ididio’s school explorer provides you with many ways to discover potential colleges and universities. While each college’s costs and alumni successes are really important, to find your best fit you need data about the majors and activities offered, selectivity, classroom environment, and student body composition. We hope you will use all of our information to find the best college or university for your future success.

We only show colleges and universities that offer primarily bachelor’s degrees at the undergraduate level and that report a seven-year federal loan repayment rate, an eight-year graduation rate, and their net price.
Our alumni outcomes rating was based on the eight-year graduation rate and the seven-year federal loan repayment rate. If you experiment with differing measures of quality using our school explorer you will find similar results. It turns out that loan default and repayment rates correlate very closely with earnings data for all alumni -- not just those who needed federal student aid. However, it takes many years to accumulate reliable earnings data, while loan repayment and default rates can be measured more quickly.
The eight-year graduation rate is taken from the outcomes data reported in the 2018 IPEDS data, and applies to all students seeking an undergraduate degree. Although standings could change for individual schools, the overall trend we see here is preserved if we only consider first-time full-time freshmen and/or six- or four-year graduation rates.
The federal loan repayment rate is from College Scorecard. This and the three-year default rate are available in our school explorer. The three-year rate is more sensitive to recent changes in quality and would result in a similar analysis.
For each of the two outcomes measures above, we labeled each school as performing in the top 10%, top 50% (excluding the top 10%), lower 50%, or lower 10%. Our alumni outcomes ratings were defined as
Best: Top 10% in both measures
Good: Top 50% in both measures, and top 10% in one measure -- this is still outstanding performance!
Fair: Top 50% in both measures. Note that this guarantees only a 57% graduation rate and a 74% repayment rate, meaning that for the schools near this boundary almost half of their students fail to graduate and a quarter have made no progress in repaying their debt after 7 years. This is not a tough standard!
Worrisome: In the lower half of performance for at least one standard.
Poor: In the lowest 10% of performance for both standards.
We share a selectivity rating for each school when you hover over or long press any dot. In creating the selectivity rating, we calculated the percentile ranking in comparison to all schools for the following metrics describing the most recently reported entering class: high school GPA, 75th percentile of the combined ERW and math SAT scores, 75th percentile of the composite ACT score. We averaged any of the percentiles available (some schools do not report on all of these measures) to measure student standing, and averaged the student standing with the percentage of rejected applications to arrive at a selectivity rating. Colleges without selectivity data or with open enrollment are assigned a selectivity rating of 0.
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