25 COLLEGES WITH HIGH FRESHMAN RETENTION RATES RANKED BY RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

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25 COLLEGES WITH HIGH FRESHMAN RETENTION RATES RANKED BY RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)

High freshman retention is one of the best indicators not only of student satisfaction at a university, but also the likelihood that graduates will finish with lower debt than their peers who graduate from a different college than the one they originally enrolled in. Transferring between colleges and dropping out are among the greatest causes of increased student debt in the United States. Transfer students often take an extra year or two to complete their degree due to differences in curriculum and other factors. This significantly increases the cost of college.

So what can a person who can’t read the future do to minimize the chance of transferring? Well, among other things like being sure of what you intend to major in and doing research to make sure a school is a good fit for you, a great way to hedge your bets is to attend a university or college with a high freshman retention rate.

Methodology

The list we’ve compiled below includes the national universities and liberal arts colleges with the highest freshman retention rates according to U.S. News and World Report. Because the value of your education is important, we rank these high retention rate schools according to their 30 year average net return on investment according to figures from payscale.com. Also included in the list, for purely informational purposes, is the overall ranking of each institution according to U.S. News and World Report. The purpose of including this statistic is to provide you with an understanding of where the school stands in terms of quality, in addition to the ROI and retention rate figures. Schools are sorted by 30 year average net ROI, with the highest-ROI school occupying the #1 spot.

ROI Rankings of U.S. Schools with the Highest Retention Rates

Rank School Location
1 Harvey Mudd College Claremont, CA
2 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
4 Stanford University Stanford, CA
5 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
6 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH
7 Williams College Williamstown, MA
8 University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN
9 Princeton University Princeton, NJ
10 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
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  1. Harvey Mudd College
    Location

    Claremont, CA

    Looking at Harvey Mudd's statistics, one notices something out of the ordinary. How is it that a liberal arts college also boasts the highest 30 year average net ROI in the United States? Well, Harvey Mudd is just as unique as its statistics indicate. This private liberal arts university is one of the premier colleges in the U.S. for studies in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering. Harvey Mudd believes that the liberal arts model is fundamental to creating not just knowledgeable people, but leaders. Harvey Mudd College seeks to create leaders in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering. The school's model is time tested, and the results speak for themselves.

  2. California Institute of Technology
    Location

    Pasadena, CA

    The California Institute of Technology is one of the top schools in the world for Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering. Students have many opportunities to be involved with cutting edge research in their field. Students from Cal Tech often go on to start companies, become leaders in theory and research, and invent things that change the world.

  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    MIT is legendary for its STEM programs. Graduates from the school tend to work in the highest level of their respective fields. The school is hard, which is demonstrated by the 97% freshman retention rate. The school's ROI reflects the fact that the vast majority of students major in science, technology, engineering or mathematics, which lead to the highest paying jobs and careers available to students with an undergraduate degree.

  4. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Stanford is a school with a highly entrepreneurial culture. If one combines the revenue of all the companies founded by Stanford alumni, that combination of companies would be the tenth largest economy in the world. Stanford has one of the lowest acceptance rates at 6.6%, but students that get in tend to stay in for the long haul. Stanford is highly ranked in all of the STEM categories, and is highly interdisciplinary, encouraging students from different programs to work together and create new technologies and and new applications for theories.

  5. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Harvard has the lowest acceptance rate of any school in the United States at 6.1% and has had a reputation for academic rigor and excellence since its founding in 1636, a mere eight years after the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Harvard's rich history and academic tradition has been continued and improved upon to this day. Its Law School, Medical School, Business School, Engineering, Science, Technology, and Math programs are all considered to be among the best in the world, as are the rest of Harvard's academic offerings.

  6. Dartmouth College
    Location

    Hanover, NH

    This ivy league school has a rich history and, as all the other ivy league schools, has both a high retention rate among freshmen, and a high 30 year average net ROI. The undergraduate programs at Dartmouth are more limited and focused than some areas, with a liberal arts college that covers the humanities, and top rung schools of medicine, business, and engineering.

  7. Williams College
    Location

    Williamstown, MA

    This private liberal arts college, which was originally a men's college, became co-ed in 1979 and women now constitute the gender majority at the school at 51.8% among undergraduate students. The school is ranked first among national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News, and in 2010-2011 was ranked first among all colleges and universities in the United States by Forbes, and is still ranked in the top ten by Forbes.

  8. University of Notre Dame
    Location

    Notre Dame, IN

    This private Roman Catholic university was founded in 1842 and its academic curriculum was originally modeled after the Jesuit method. The school embraces the Roman Catholic sensibilities of advocacy for social justice and seeks to imbue all students with a civic consciousness they will carry with them throughout their lives.

  9. Princeton University
    Location

    Princeton, NJ

    Princeton University is the top ranked school in the United States according to U.S. News and is consistently rated in the top three year after year. An ivy league school, Princeton features rigorous academic programs, and places great emphasis on research that sits on the very cutting cutting edge of all of the subjects offered at the school.

  10. University of Pennsylvania
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    The University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest universities in the United States. Located in the heart of the city of Philadelphia, the school is well known for its rigorous academic culture, and its significant research, particularly in the medical and business fields. The University of Pennsylvania also made our list of the 20 Most Impressive College Gyms and Student Rec Centers, providing further incentive for students to stick around past their freshman year.

  11. University of California-Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    U.C. Berkeley is the top ranked public school on this list, and also the top ranked public university by U.S. News and World Report. Berkeley boasts an acceptance rate of 25.6% which is two to four times that of many of the more exclusive private universities. The school is committed to the idea that higher education can be of the best quality and accessible-two qualities that many tend to believe are mutually exclusive. Berkeley proves them wrong year after year, turning out some of the most influential graduates in the United States in all of the major fields.

  12. Columbia University
    Location

    New York City, NY

    Founded in 1754 as King's College, the school has graduated three U.S. presidents, nine supreme court justices (including John Jay, the nation's first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court). Five of the founding fathers of the United States attended Columbia, so it isn't an exaggeration to say that this school has played a major role in the history of the United States, a role it continues to play to this day.

  13. Duke University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Duke was founded in 1838 by a group of Methodist and Quaker families that shared a desire to create a quality local institution of education. The university has maintained symbolic ties with the Methodist church, though it operates now as a private nonsectarian institution. The school has developed over its long history into one of the premier universities in the world.

  14. Swarthmore College
    Location

    Swarthmore, PA

    This small private liberal arts college just outside Philadelphia has an enrollment of just over 1,500 students. With the large size of many college campuses, this is an attractive choice for students looking for a small, close knit, intellectual community. The school has a network with local colleges Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania that allows students to cross-register classes, providing students with a broad variety of options.

  15. Brown University
    Location

    Providence, RI

    Brown University is another Ivy League school. Students with an eye for the financial side of things will be interested to know that Brown is one of few schools in the country that has expressed a commitment to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need among students.

  16. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Johns Hopkins University is renowned for its medical program, but the rich academic tradition of excellence in that program is also present in all the school's other programs. One of the top schools in the United States, Johns Hopkins broke new ground when it became the first research university in the United States. The school has placed a special emphasis on being one of the foremost research universities in the world ever since.

  17. Amherst College
    Location

    Amherst, MA

    With an enrollment of just over 1,800 students, Amherst College is one of the smallest schools on this list. The school is widely considered to be one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges, and was ranked #13 among all colleges in the United States by Forbes Magazine in 2013. The school is also ranked as the 4th best value liberal arts college by Kiplinger.

  18. Yale University
    Location

    New Haven, CT

    Yale was founded as "The Collegiate School" in 1701, making it the third oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S. behind Harvard and William and Mary. The school was renamed Yale College in 1718, meaning its first name change came before most other schools in the country were even founded. Yale is one of the nation's ivy league universities, and has maintained a high standard of academic excellence and rigor across its programs throughout its history.

  19. University of Virginia
    Location

    Charlottesville, VA

    The first board of the University of Virginia which was founded in 1819 included two former and one current (at the time) presidents of the United States. James Monroe, who was the President of the United States at the time, donated the original land on which the university was founded. The school is one of the country's oldest public universities and one of the eight original schools listed in Richard Moll's 1985 book "Public Ivies: A Guide to America's Best Public Undergraduate Colleges and Universities". The book spotlighted public universities that offer an education of ivy league quality, at the price, and with the accessibility, of a public institution.

  20. University of California-Los Angeles
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    UCLA is one of the top universities in the California state university system. The school has an incredibly high rate of freshman retention considering its massive enrollment of over 41,000 students. There are many cultures at a school as large and diverse at UCLA, but a common theme shared by most is one of commitment to academic excellence both among faculty and students.

  21. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    This private university is one of the best in the United States. Founded in LA in 1880 when the now massive metropolis was little more than a frontier town sandwiched between the desert and the ocean, USC has grown with the city. The school has always been connected with the city in which it resides and reflects the city's diversity, with high hispanic and asian representation in the school. Nearly 8,000 students (1/5th) are international.

  22. Washington University in St. Louis
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Luminosity ranked the students at Washington University in St. Louis as the smartest students in the United States. The school's students prize its intellectual culture. One of the special things about the university is that it makes a special effort to engage students in community service, and the students respond wholeheartedly, gaining it the reputation of having some of the smartest, and most caring students in the country.

  23. University of Chicago
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    The University of Chicago boasts the largest university press in the United States. The school was founded with a donation from John D. Rockefeller in the early 1900s and quickly became one of the top institutions of higher learning in the United States. The student population is about 12,000 and the student to faculty ratio is one of the lowest in the country at 6:1.

  24. Northwestern University
    Location

    Evanston, IL

    Founded in Evanston, by John Evans and a collection of community leaders, Northwestern has been one of the premier institutions of higher education throughout most of its history. The school is environmentally conscious, and was listed as one of the top ten universities in the United States using renewable energy resources, according to the EPA-sponsored Green Power Partnership.

  25. Pomona College
    Location

    Claremont, CA

    Pomona College is a small liberal arts university. The school may have just over 1,600 students, but the college has grown to offer more programs and institutions. Pomona is considered one of the best liberal arts colleges in the United States and is able to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for each student thanks to its low student population and generous endowment.

By choosing one of these colleges with high freshman retention rates that also boast a high return on investment, you can be assured to get the most bang for your buck out of your college education.

Publish Date: July 2020

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