With an average yearly cost of $19,548 for a public school and $43,921 for private, college is a major investment.
But unlike most investments parents and students will make in their lifetimes, the return is uncertain.
That's why The Princeton Review has ranked the colleges that offer the best bang for your buck.
The Princeton Review has listed the best-value schools in a new 2016 edition of its "Colleges That Pay You Back" — using metrics including high post-graduate salaries, plentiful internships and active alumni networks.
The rankings come in several categories. Number one on the list of "colleges that pay you back" — offering high graduation rates, alumni salaries and job satisfaction scores — is the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, which costs $58,700, but whose mostly Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students make an average of $74,800 after graduation.
Rounding out the top five are Princeton University, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Even better than high post-graduation salaries? Getting a fantastic financial aid package while in school. Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, tops the pack, based on the percentage of students that got aid, percentage of their need that was met (100% percent for all four years) and how satisfied students were with their aid. Vassar gives out $57 million in scholarships, though the initial sticker price is high ($61,100).
Other schools that help take the sting out of school costs: Harvey Mudd, which Princeton Review ranks number one for career placement (thanks to a top-notch engineering program that produces super employable graduates and a robust career fair); George Washington University, where internships rank at the top; and Dartmouth College, where a network of alumni is the most active of the bunch.