Spending your beer money on tuition can be a pain, but earning a college degree pays off -- at certain schools. PayScale, an online financial company, released a report Thursday detailing which colleges afford students the best return on their monetary investment in education.
Colleges focused on science and math typically had the highest-earning alumni, followed by the Ivies, but here's a surprise: The group of institutions known as party schools came in third. “Apparently there is some studying happening in between partying," PayScale spokeswoman Lydia Frank told TIME.
The other results were mostly standard. Seven of the top 10 institutions were private, and at No. 1 was Harvey Mudd College, a small Claremont, California, school where students net about $985,300 in the 20 years after they graduate. Stanford University came in sixth, Princeton University ninth and Brown University 15th.
PayScale's findings were based on about 300 alumni salary surveys per school. It took the median earnings for bachelor's degree graduates of each college, took out the median earnings for high school graduates and subtracted what students paid to attend each school without financial aid.
Students at engineering colleges made the most, with about $677,500 in profits over 20 years, Bloomberg reported. Ivy League graduates earn about $649,000 on average during that same time period.
The cost of college has been a hot topic in the United States recently as high school seniors receive acceptance letters and President Barack Obama pushes his free community college plan. Americans' collective student loan debt recently hit $1.2 trillion, with the average person owing about $30,000 for college.
At the same time, the cost of attendance is rising. The average sticker price for resident undergraduates at four-year colleges was set at $18,943 last year. Out-of-state students paid even more: $32,762, according to USA Today. Although the rate of increase is slowing, higher education still costs students today more than three times what it did 30 years ago.
Because of that, students often strategize how to maximize their return on investment, or how much they can profit from paying out early on. Below is PayScale's list of top schools paired with their 20-year net return on investment. Read the full list here.
1. Harvey Mudd College -- $985,300
2. California Institute of Technology - $901,400
3. Stevens Institute of Technology -- $841,000
4. Colorado School of Mines for in-state students -- $831,000
5. Babson College -- $812,800
6. Stanford University -- $809,700
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- $798,500
8. Georgia Institute of Technology -- $796,300
9. Princeton University -- $795,700
10. Colorado School of Mines for out-of-state students -- $771,000