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If you have kids, you're probably well aware of the high costs of college and how these costs keep increasing.  You're also well aware that no matter how well you plan, you can just never save enough.  But what you probably don't know is how analytics can help you to find the true costs of colleges and which ones provide the 'best bang for your buck'.

The US Dept of Education publishes a College Scorecard, which provides a full list of all US institutions with 100s of variables around programs and degrees, location and sizes of schools, scholarships and grants, federal loans and defaults, household statistics, and total costs of colleges (beyond just tuition).  As an analytics junkie, I wanted to do my own analysis using SAP Analytics Cloud to find what colleges would be best for my family.

Here's what I found...

About the Data

This data set is comprised of over 2,000 schools - 60% are private, 28% public, and the remainder are online schools.

What's the Financial Impact of Going to College?

Here are some basic financial figures.  Since 1998, college tuition has been steadily increasing each year between 3-5% - compounded to a 96% increase (2x) over the past 20 years.

While these tuition costs have increased, the median debt among students have increased at the same rate.

What do the numbers say about the difference between Private and Public schools?

If we compare public and private colleges, this is where some of the biggest differences lie.  From the visual below, we see that you need a higher SAT score to get into public schools, but the graduation rates are higher, you'll pay less, accumulate less debt, and make higher earnings.

So on the surface, it would seem like going to a public college is the best choice.  Not so fast.  Like most things, stats (at an aggregated level) can be very misleading.


What Types of SAT Scores Do I Need To Get Into College?

If we look at the top 600 colleges in the US, we can see the following.  Private schools are more expensive and they typically require higher SAT scores to get in.  This makes sense because most of the top colleges is the US are private.

Does the Graduation Rate Change Based On How Much I Pay for College?

Yes, the higher you pay for a private school, the higher the graduation rate.

What Type of Debt Can I Expect At These Different Schools?

The median debt for students is higher among private schools than public ones - as private colleges are far more expensive.

Will I Make More Money (Post Graduation) If I Go To a More Expensive School?

Aside from a few key outliers, the median earnings (post grad) are higher with the "top" private schools.

Will I Make More Money If I Go To The Best College?

The visual below shows the 2019 Forbes Rankings of these colleges.  If The median earnings (post grad) are higher with the top "ranked" private schools.


What Can I Expect if I go to a Top School?

The visual below is filtered for just the top 100 colleges in the US - as ranked by Forbes.  It says the following:

  • 27% of these applicants are accepted.

  • You need a 1,422 combined SAT score.

  • 89% of these students will graduate within 1 year of their expected date.

  • The average tuition will be $25k.

  • 29% of these students have a federal with an average of $16.5k.

  • These students are expected to make $66.5k within 10 years of their graduation date.


So Where Is the Most "Bang For Your Buck"?

Not every college is the same and each will appeal to different students based on their location, majors, personalities, and personal preferences.  But from a financial perspective, of the top 50 colleges in the US, the following had the lower tuition and higher median earnings than their peers.

What Does This All Mean?

Data is everywhere and all around us.  But without analytics, data is just data.  Turning it into analytics with tools like SAP Analytics Cloud helps arms you with actionable information to make better and more informed decisions.  For your college search, it can provide a more meaningful and more relevant way to find the school that's right for you.