There are a handful of fields that all but guarantee graduates a high return on investment: finance, medicine, law. But for people who like hands-on experimentation, complex projects, and dreaming big, engineering is the way to go. Engineering degrees have spectacularly high ROIs, even from state colleges and universities, and there’s a job market hungry for qualified engineers.
If you’re considering a bachelor’s in engineering, look at residential programs before online. There are a lot of very solid financial reasons to go residential. First of all, there are very few reputable online programs for undergraduate engineering in the first place, largely because engineering is such a hands-on field – it’s tough to learn basic concepts from simulations and virtual models. That’s something a residential program can provide; most universities have well-equipped laboratories for experimentation. Most universities also have master’s programs that you can step right into to further raise your credentials.
Secondly, location is important: the best residential programs are usually located in cities or regions with lots of industry, business, and government agencies that employ engineers, whether it’s Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle, or the resurgent Rust Belt. Plus, university and college engineering schools often have long-standing relationships with the corporations and industries in their area, providing a pipeline into the job market.
Many of the best engineering schools are household names, such as MIT, Stanford, and UCLA, but what many people may not realize is what a value even the best schools are. Sure, some of them have high price tags, but don’t let sticker shock slow you down: the top schools are interested in getting the very best students, and financial aid is usually generous. Some of the most elite will even meet all of a student’s need without student loans, all for the sake of getting the very best. Even for students who end up with loan debt, the engineering field has such need for qualified people that salaries are high and benefits are competitive – you’ll be paying off your loan in no time.
To make sure you’ll be benefiting from those high ROIs, make sure you’re getting your degree from a reputable source that potential employers will respect. Nothing sinks a resume faster than a disgraceful education section. The engineering schools on the Best Value ranking are all regionally-accredited, transparent, and proven. From a master list of engineering programs, we rank according to three criteria:
- Payscale.com’s 20-year ROI
- U.S. News & World Report rankings
- Annual cost (in-state tuition)
Our formula shows us the engineering schools with the best balance of quality and cost, so we steer you only to the programs most likely to pay off in the long run. Engineering is one of the most stimulating, challenging, and satisfying careers out there: start yours off right.
The Georgia Institute of Technology – better known as Georgia Tech – was an engineering school first, and remains one of the best in the world. Founded in 1885 in an effort to help the post-Civil War south develop alongside the north in the Industrial Revolution, Georgia Tech adopted what was at the time a radical new idea in education, the polytechnic institute, educating students in both theory and practice of engineering. Today, Georgia Tech is reliably ranked as one of the top ten public universities in the US, and is recognized as a center of excellent education, research, and innovation. Residential students further benefit from Georgia Tech’s location in Atlanta, GA, a major metropolitan area that has come to rival New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago as a center of business, commerce, and especially technology. Undergraduate students considering a major in engineering, in other words, could do a lot worse. Georgia Tech’s College of Engineerings has an international reputation, a major urban campus that partners with numerous laboratories and engineering firms, and a highly regarded faculty. Georgia Tech has a full range of majors, from Aerospace Engineering and Biomedical Engineering to Nuclear and Radiological Engineering. As a public university, Georgia Tech’s tuition is kept reasonable and accessible, and the average 20-year return on investment for in-state residents is astonishing, over $800,000, a number that only other polytechnics like MIT or Ivy League schools can match. Georgia Tech is the definition of a Best Value: affordable and bursting with potential.
Texas A&M University, College Station
Texas A&M University, the oldest public university in Texas, was founded as an agricultural and mechanical school in 1876 (hence the A&M), and from that original focus has continued to expand and develop into a highly acclaimed engineering and technology research university. Texas A&M’s innovations in cloning and energy have given it attention in the media beyond most academic research, but the hype is less than half the story. As a land, sea, and space grant university – federally funded for research in all three areas – and one of the largest endowments in the nation for a public school, Texas A&M affords students access to some of the most exciting and significant research in the world. And they do it all at an affordable public university price – the main reason Texas A&M has been acclaimed as a value by U.S. News & World Report, the Princeton Review, Kiplinger’s, and more. Engineering students will find anything they could hope for in the Dwight Look College of Engineering, including world-renowned programs in Petroleum Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. A high ROI and great employment prospects make Texas A&M an investment few institutions can beat.
Purdue University, West Lafayette
Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the ten best engineering schools in the nation, Purdue University’s College of Engineering has much to offer students. Purdue’s aviation and aerospace programs were instrumental in NASA’s development and early missions, and Purdue alumni include a Mercury astronaut and two men who walked on the moon. But Purdue is not content to rest on their laurels, as they at the beginning of a period of strategic growth, developing new programs to bring their students to the front of 21st century research and innovation. Purdue’s large research budget and exemplary body of faculty can introduce undergraduate students to the most current and futuristic work being done in the engineering field, in everything from Agricultural or Civil Engineering, to Electrical, Mechanical, and Nuclear Engineering programs. As a public university, Purdue’s tuition is kept affordable, with many opportunities for financial aid available, and students are rewarded with a considerable ROI from their engineering careers – a solid investment in the future.
University of California Berkeley
In quality, UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering rivals MIT and Stanford, according to U.S. News & World Report. Much of Berkeley’s reputation, however, is built on its commitment not only to research, but to entrepreneurial drive and non-traditional thinking. For example, Berkeley has been a leading voice in attracting more young women to STEM in general and engineering in particular, fields in which women are usually a small minority. Berkeley has been innovative in everything from civil engineering projects like the Hoover Dam to the electronics and microprocessing that built Silicon Valley. The College of Engineering recognizes engineering as the foundation of the contemporary economy and world development, and has been recognized far and wide for its social engagement and community service. Students in the College of Engineering can choose from every possible concentration, and new initiatives like the Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology give students a jump start on forming their own companies. Berkeley’s balance of theory and practice makes their education top quality, and endless possibilities after graduation make their engineering program a best value.
University of Texas, Austin
The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering has made huge strides in rankings in recent years, as they have raised the profile of their programs through innovative research and strategic growth. Much of this development has been due to UT’s location in Austin, where the school of engineering can form partnerships with some of the most prestigious tech companies and send graduates out into a technology and engineering job market that is bursting at the seams. UT Austin is already the most respected public university in Texas, but with the Austin tech boom, Cockrell is primed for fame. Students are drawn not only by Cockrell’s programs, which include Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and many more, but also by the vibrant life of Austin. Affordable tuition rates from this flagship public university increase UT Austin’s ROI, and the chance to be at the forefront of tech and engineering make Austin a top educational investment.
University of Maryland, College Park
As the largest public research university in the Washington, DC area, the University of Maryland, College Park has major advantages over other institutions. Most significantly, College Park’s location (only 8 miles from DC) means the UMCP has established intensive relationships with government agencies such as Homeland Security, NASA, and others; that means tons of research funding and access to federal and private-sector employment opportunities for graduates. It also puts UMCP on the front lines of new development, meaning engineering students learn the most current information in their fields. As far as fields go, UMCP’s Clark School of Engineering has them all covered: Aerospace, Bioengineering, Computer Engineering, and more, including rarer programs such as Chemical Engineering and Fire Protection Engineering. With reasonable public-university tuition rates and excellent employment prospects, the University of Maryland demonstrates value.
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is one of the most elite private universities in the world, a small technical institute regarded as one of the greatest engineering and technology centers in the world. It is the home to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and some of the most respected scientists alive. Caltech accepts only the best students. So how is Caltech a value? Simple: if you qualify to get in, they’ll make sure you can pay your way. Most students graduate with little to no debt, due to generous financial aid. It’s a small price for Caltech to pay to make sure they get the most accomplished young scientists in the world. Engineering students will find Caltech’s Division of Engineering & Applied Science, in urban Los Angeles, a haven of innovation and development, with a world-renowned faculty to guide them, and Caltech graduates will have their choice of employment or entrepreneurship, with an astounding average ROI of over $900,000. So don’t look at the sticker price – if you’ve got the goods, Caltech is a top value.
Located near Palo Alto, in Stanford, CA, Stanford University was one of the prime movers in creating what is now known as Silicon Valley, and that closeness – in proximity and relationships with alumni and corporate partners – makes Stanford one of the most desired and respected tech institutions in the world. Because of demand, Stanford is the most selective university in the US, turning away more applicants than anyone, but that means that, in their quest to get only the best, Stanford also has a commitment to making sure every student’s financial need is met without loans. So it may be tough to get in, but for those who do, Stanford is an incredible investment, as students graduate with little or no debt and one of the most respected names in higher education. With a history of developing the future of technology in computers, health, and every other field, the School of Engineering is a young engineer’s dream, one that could become a great investment in reality.
As one of the oldest colleges in the US, founded before the Revolutionary War, Princeton is a definitive Ivy League institution, outranked in age by only Harvard and Yale. So how is the Ivy League a value? Like Caltech and Stanford above, the Ivy League universities are dedicated to attracting the most promising students regardless of income, so Princeton’s financial aid makes that possible. A low real cost, plus the kind of weight that an Ivy League degree carries on the job market, means a high ROI no matter what the ticket price of the education. Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is proud of their place in the liberal arts university setting, emphasizing interdisciplinary study and social application of technology. Students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in a number of departments, including Civil & Environmental Engineering, Computer Engineering, and others. Princeton also offers Operations Research and Financial Engineering.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the models of the polytechnic university in the US, and as such has been a leader in science, engineering, and technology since 1861. Nearly every other engineering school in America owes a debt to MIT. MIT is another highly selective school, but has been acclaimed as a best value by many sources, including Money magazine, for its balance of cost and employment prospects. MIT engineering students learn from MacArthur genius grant recipients, Nobel Prize winners, and other leaders in research, and build connections and networks that will bring them to the job market with potential for an astounding ROI. With everything from Medical Engineering to Mechanical Engineering available, MIT engineering graduates will find MIT a top 10 Best Value.
Virginia Tech’s full name is Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a mouthful that pretty much explains what makes Tech a great value – as a polytechnic institute, like MIT (#10) or Caltech (#7), Virginia Tech offers respected degrees in highly desirable science and engineering fields, which usually give graduates the potential for a high salary, and as a state university VT has a reasonable tuition rate that further increases ROI. The College of Engineering offers majors in 15 areas, including unusual areas such as Ocean Engineering, Mining and Minerals Engineering, and Materials Science Engineering. With specializations in every area a student could want, and the potential for a great return on investment, Virginia Tech is the best of all worlds.
University of Florida
The University of Florida College of Engineering is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as a top 20 best public engineering schools in the nation, with many individual majors ranked even higher. But the College of Engineering would rather highlight the impact it is making for women and minorities, underrepresented groups in the engineering field. A diverse faculty and student body makes UF’s College of Engineering a welcoming place for all students, a value still unfortunately rare in STEM. The College includes the Engineering Leadership Institute and Engineering Innovation Institute for encouraging positive, ethical leadership and creativity in engineering, and students can major in all significant areas of engineering, including a groundbreaking nuclear engineering program. With public university tuition, UF means a solid education and a sound investment for all.
Missouri University of Science & Technology
Missouri University of Science & Technology was originally founded as a mining school, but in the nearly 150 years since Missouri S&T has grown into a major polytechnic institute, known for its engineering program and especially for the success of the Student Design & Experiential Learning Center, an aggregation of its many award-winning student design teams. Missouri S&T places a premium on community, as the best residential programs do, and on friendly competition, for a culture that rewards hands-on experimentation and creativity. If that sounds like the place for you, Missouri S&T tuition is extremely affordable for in-state residents, making it a top value for engineering students who like to get their hands dirty.
University of California, San Diego
UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering ranks as a top 10 public engineering school according to U.S. News & World Report, and UCSD in general is regarded as a Public Ivy, a public university of Ivy League quality. UCSD is a center for computer engineering, home of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and of oceanic engineering, as well as other fields. Corporate partnerships with tech companies in San Diego – a hub for computing, biotech, and nanotechnology – mean students get access not only to top-quality education, but employment networking and marketability. The potential for a high-paying career in a rewarding profession means value added to an already great investment.
Rice University, in Houston, TX, is world-renowned for its high quality, competitive admissions, and excellence in undergraduate education, especially STEM education. Rice has the lowest student to faculty ratio in the nation, with only five students to each faculty member, so Rice’s commitment to academic support and guidance is well-earned. Rice’s Brown School of Engineering is distinguished by close working relationships between faculty and students, side by side in the laboratory setting. The Brown School is also distinguished as one of the highest proportion of female students earned degrees in engineering, a significant accomplishment in the field. Students can study in all areas of engineering, from Bioengineering to Material Science and Nanoengineering. With Rice’s elite reputation, employment opportunities open to RIce graduates make for a superior value.
North Carolina State University
As a corner of the Research Triangle, a center of business, technology, and research for the southeast US, North Carolina State University has a long history of excellence in STEM, including the internationally-respected College of Engineering, the largest college in the Carolinas’ largest university. Engineering students work on the innovative Centennial Campus, where government agencies, business, and academic researchers collaborate side-by-side, a real working model of contemporary engineering practices. This arrangement gives NCSU engineering students a rare advantage for networking and career prospects in everything from aerospace engineering to computers, with the Research Triangle Park being a major source of employment. A top 50 public university, according to U.S. News & World Report, NCSU is widely considered a best value for the combination of public-university pricing and high ROI for its trusted engineering programs.
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University, in Provo, UT, is recognized as a top educational value for its exceptionally low tuition, though there is a catch – that low tuition is only for Church of Latter-Day Saints members, whose donations fund much of the university. Non-members pay a price comparable to other private universities, though still considerably less than the elite institutions in BYU’s class. The Fulton College of Engineering & Technology is well-regarded for its state-of-the-art laboratories and commitment to mentoring, and a high proportion of BYU engineering students go on to terminal degrees. Like some other schools on this list, BYU is making strides toward including women in their engineering programs, and has established a center for global leadership. For Mormon students, BYU is a best possible value, but even non-Mormons may want to consider BYU an investment.
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia’s proud history is well-known, and constitutes a big draw for students: founded and designed by Thomas Jefferson, home to an unprecedented (for a public university) number of decorated faculty and students. UVA is known as an elite Public Ivy, and like other elite public institutions, that combination of excellence and public tuition creates a value. While UVA is more expensive on paper than many other public universities, there are many opportunities for loan-free financial aid, and the high reputation UVA carries on the job market means engineering graduates have the potential for an exceptional ROI. UVA is a very high research activity institution, so students gain access to some of the most exciting work being done in the engineering field today, an educational value that will carry engineers into the future.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
The College of Engineering has been at the center of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign since the very beginning, when the steam engine (featured on UI’s official seal) was the height of technology. A U.S. News & World Report top 10 engineering college for years, UI offers students the most current education in every field of engineering, with 15 majors spread across 12 departments. UI’s commitment to student support means every student is given the tools necessary to succeed and graduate to a promising career, whether in Bioengineering, Engineering Physics, or Nuclear Engineering. An affordable public university tuition is only the start of UI’s value.
University of Michigan
Like the University of Illinois (#19) or North Carolina State University (#16), the University of Michigan is a high-level public research institution with its roots in engineering and mechanical science. With one of the first aerospace engineering programs in the world, UM has been breaking ground since its founding, and the College of Engineering consistently ranks as a top 10 and top 15 engineering school, both for quality of education and for faculty research. In addition to majors in every desirable field of engineering, UM is also known for its community and global engagement, with students taking part in numerous social improvement projects. Residential students get the added advantage of living in Ann Arbor, one of the most beloved college towns in the nation, and quality of life carries a value of its own.
University of Washington
A Public Ivy with one of the highest research budgets in the US (over $1 billion), the University of Washington is at the forefront of engineering and science research. Part of that reputation, of course, is tied to its location: Seattle, WA, where the university has helped shape the global tech economy with Amazon, Microsoft, and many others. In fact, UW ranks third in the number of start-ups begun by students and faculty with technology developed in the College of Engineering. This is the environment of entrepreneurship and innovation that engineering students should be seeking out, and as a public university, UW makes access to that incredible education as affordable as possible, making the University of Washington a best value and a smart investment in the future of engineering.
Colorado School of Mines
Granted, the “School of Mines” is not an especially attractive name. But for prospective engineering students, the Colorado School of Mines should definitely be a front-runner: a U.S. News & World Report top 50 public university, top 50 engineering school, and top 100 university overall. That’s because, while this public research university may be small, its focus is entirely on engineering and applied science, ensuring educational excellence and a high research budget for a school of its size. Engineering students can choose to major in any significant area of engineering, though of course, Geology, Petroleum Engineering, and Mining Engineering are particularly attractive areas at CSM. With the intensive STEM education of a polytechnic, and an ROI that rivals Stanford and even beats the Ivy League, Mines is a perfect example of the under-the-radar best value.
Iowa State University
From its founding as Iowa Agricultural College, Iowa State has featured engineering (first civil and mechanical, since it was 1872). Today, Iowa State’s educational excellence is attested by a 95% job placement rate for graduates and a high proportion – more than two-thirds – of students who graduate with job experience in the engineering field. Iowa’s commitment to student and faculty diversity, as well as to community outreach and service, demonstrates the university’s ethical values. Students can choose from 12 undergraduate degrees, secure in the knowledge that their investment gives them great potential for employment and a career with a great future.
UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science isn’t known for much – just birthing the Internet by sending the first-ever electronic message to Stanford in 1969. As a consistent top 10 public engineering school, the Samueli School brings impressive research funding and access to the absolute cutting-edge of engineering to its students, while the UCLA name and reputation offers graduates valuable connections and advantages on the job market. Students can choose from a full slate of engineering options, including (of course) Computer Science and Computer Science & Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and more. Graduates can count on potential employment from UCLA’s many corporate partners, or from a high level of response on the job market, making UCLA a top investment in education.
Carnegie Mellon University
Originally designed to provide technical instruction to students from working-class Pittsburgh, PA, Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering has been at the forefront of engineering and applied science education for over a century. As a consistent top 10 and top 5 engineering school, Carnegie Mellon emphasizes interdisciplinary exploration and entrepreneurial creativity. Most notably, Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Engineering and Public Policy was the first academic program to systematically and strategically consider the social impact of technology, and students can still pursue majors and double-majors with the more traditional engineering programs. Carnegie Mellon is an elite private school, and tuition reflects that status, but the potential ROI balances out the sticker price to keep the university a solid value.
The Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is a relatively recent addition to Harvard; while there had been a division dedicated to engineering, the establishment of a school in 2007 underscored Harvard’s commitment to bringing the Harvard name to engineering and applied science in a more concerted way. Harvard offers fewer concentrations than some of the other schools on the list (only six currently), but these include highly marketable fields such as Bioengineering, Environmental Science and Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Most importantly, though, Paulson School graduates have the Harvard commitment to financial aid (covering all of a student’s documented need) and the Harvard name and network, keys to entry into the highest levels of professional success.
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
With Minneapolis ranked by Forbes as one of the best cities for new college graduates, and engineering recognized as one of the highest-paying degrees, it’s not hard to put two and two together and see why the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, is one of the best college values out there. The UM College of Science & Engineering boasts a 92% job placement rate (within 6 months), with 65% of those offers coming from internships with one of UM’s many corporate partnerships, including a number of Fortune 500 companies located in Minneapolis. UM offers 19 undergraduate majors, including rarities such as Geoengineering and Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, along with opportunities for interdisciplinary and dual degrees. Considering affordable tuition rates and all the employment potential, the University of Minnesota is a definitive value.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
A U.S. News & World Report top 15 engineering school, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Engineering is moving into the future of engineering science to confront our global challenges head-on. As a major, very high research activity institution, the University of Wisconsin has a research budget of over $1 billion, one of the highest in the nation, which funds cutting-edge discoveries and keeps UW filing over 100 patents a year. In that fertile environment, students can expect to experience and participate in some of the most exciting engineering work in the world, for an affordable public-university tuition, and to be rewarded for the experience with a potentially high ROI and challenging career. No wonder the University of Wisconsin-Madison is a perennial best value.
University of Utah
The University of Utah College of Engineering is known worldwide for its School of Computing, as one of the four original nodes of the ARPANET, precursor to the Internet, and for its significant innovations in computer modeling, graphics, and animation. Other significant programs include petroleum engineering, and its unique entertainment arts and engineering specialization. The College of Engineering has made its mission to be recognized as one of the top engineering and computer science school in the world, and that mission is paying off through community, elementary, and secondary school outreach. As with other public institutions, the University of Utah keeps tuition low, increasings its value as an investment.
Cornell University’s College of Engineering has long been a top 10 engineering school in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, and are especially notable for their nanotechnology research. As an elite Ivy League institution, Cornell has the research funding and confidence to challenge their students to innovate and disrupt conventional understanding of what technology can and cannot do, with results that are not only cutting edge but highly marketable. Further, Cornell has a high proportion of women and minority students, supporting the future of engineering, and as an Ivy League university supports students financially as much as they need in order to attract the very best. With thirteen majors and ample opportunity for creative interdisciplinary work, Cornell offers its students all they could want, with a dependable promise of return.
One of the most recognizable non-Ivy League universities in the US – and not just for their legendarily dominant basketball team – Duke University’s Pratt College of Engineering has been quickly rising in the rankings as it increases its profile in the field. Duke currently offers four BSE degrees, lower than some of the larger engineering schools. But as a corner of the world-famous Research Triangle (with NCSU, #16 above, and the University of North Carolina), Duke is part of one of the most vibrant scientific hubs in the US, a fact that, along with Duke’s reputation and high ROI, explains why Duke engineering grads can expect quick success on the job market and a significant return on their educational investment.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University, of course, is best known for medicine, but the Whiting School of Engineering would be happy to make Johns Hopkins as well known for engineering. With a low faculty to student ratio (only 9 students to every faculty member), Johns Hopkins engineering students have enviable opportunity to take part in faculty members’ innovative research – as many as 70% of students assist faculty on major projects. This kind of hands-on, experiential learning sets Johns Hopkins students apart and gives them a major advantage over students who only learn in a controlled, artificial laboratory environment. Plus, the Johns Hopkins name carries a significant market value and high potential ROI, making good the investment in an elite challenge.
University of California, Davis
Long a U.S. News & World Report top 20 public university, the University of California Davis is also a best value choice for an undergraduate engineering degree. UC Davis’s College of Engineering lives up to its institutional reputation for excellence and inclusivity, with one of the highest proportions of women in the faculty, and one of the largest students bodies in the US. Davis has made major advances in energy, environment, and nanotechnology, and is recognized as one of the best universities for getting a job in Silicon Valley through its ample corporate partnerships. Not surprisingly, Davis has the highest number of accredited majors in California, so students can study virtually anything that interests them, from Aerospace to Mechanical. While Davis has a higher tuition than many other publics, the great potential a Davis degree offers more than balances out the sticker price to make Davis a top value.
University of Pennsylvania
Founded by Ben Franklin, one of the most noted inventors and self-taught polymaths of his day, applied science and knowledge has always been at the heart of the University of Pennsylvania. So has accessibility and inclusiveness, goals set forward explicitly in the 2004 Penn Compact. It’s a mission unique to the Ivy League, but historically tied to Franklin’s values and goals of producing scientists, inventors, and public servants for the new republic. Today that looks like a high and growing number of women and minorities in the faculty and student body, and a concerted effort to raise the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in prominence and influence. Engineering students can major in a number of specialities, especially tech and computer specializations such as Digital Media Design, Networked and Social Systems Engineering, and Systems Science and Engineering. With an ROI 0f $659,000, Penn is a top investment in engineering.
Arizona State University, Tempe
Arizona State University is widely known as a best value, thanks to a commitment to keeping tuition low despite rising costs all over the US, and a reputation for quality and accessibility that has made ASU the largest public university in the nation. ASU offers nearly 30 specialized undergraduate majors, including numerous aeronautics and aerospace engineering concentrations, as well as many computer, mechanical, and biomedical engineering specialities. With six campuses, residential students have a great deal of flexibility in where to take courses, though the Tempe campus is particularly well-regarded. A solid return on investment keeps students coming to Arizona State, and a steadily growing profile as a New American University makes ASU a model for the future of higher education.
Like Princeton (#9 above), Brown University is one of the pre-Revolutionary Ivy League colleges, and Brown’s credentials as an innovator are significant. Brown was the first college to accept students of all religions, the first Ivy League university with an engineering program, and the first university to do away with general education requirements to allow students to determine their own schedules in what became known as the Brown Curriculum. That reputation continues in Brown’s School of Engineering, a selective program for accomplished, self-motivated, and ambitious students. Students can earn a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts (or a combined BS/BA) in any of the usual fields of engineering, with the freedom to direct their own education.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
For engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institution is a historical high-water mark. Rensselaer is where it all began; as the first polytechnic university in America, Rensselaer set the standard for education in the applied sciences and remains one of just a few elite private polytechnics in the US (alongside Caltech [#7] and MIT [#10] above). As such, a degree from Rensselaer is an authoritative title, and though Rensselaer’s cost keeps it from being the value that Caltech and MIT are, the career doors it opens up go a long way toward balancing that cost. Rensselaer accepts only the most competitive students, but for those who make it, the challenge and the rewards are truly great.
Nashville, Tennessee’s Vanderbilt University was founded in 1873 to promote education and modernization in the south after the Civil War, and of course a major part of that drive was engineering. The School of Engineering was established very soon afterward, the first private engineering school in the south, and Vanderbilt remains one of the top engineering schools in the nation. It’s also one of the most diverse, with over a third of the engineering student body made up by women. A low student/faculty ratio, and access to significant faculty research, give Vanderbilt students the advantage of close mentoring and experiential learning, while a high ROI (over $550,000, in the same category as the Ivy League) ensures that students will find Vanderbilt a launching pad for career success.
Pennsylvania State University
A U.S. News & World Report top 20 engineering school, Penn State’s College of Engineering is also one of the biggest with over 10,000 students. Students can major in any area of engineering, and learn from Penn State’s more than 30 research centers, labs, and institutes. The College of Engineering maintains partnerships with many Philadelphia and Pennsylvania-region corporations and industries, giving students unlimited access to experiential learning, career networking, and employment opportunity, and the Penn State name on a resume is trusted throughout the engineering field.
Ohio State University
The Ohio State University’s College of Engineering is a highly-reputable, top 50 engineering school with a lot to recommend it. Ohio State’s corporate partnerships are significant, as OSU is one of the highest ranked public universities for industry research and development funding; such relationships are a particular advantage for students, as they open up employment opportunities and promote the value of the Ohio State degree on the marketplace. It also means that students receive ample knowledge about how the engineering career works, an invaluable experience. Ohio State is widely considered a best value, and with the opportunity afforded graduates, that reputation won’t change anytime soon.
Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, OH, is best known for their medical programs, but their engineering and applied science accomplishments are just as meaningful. As an elite private university, Case Western Reserve has also made a commitment to social improvement, including improving social mobility in its Cleveland community, and making significant strides in LGBT protections. Engineering students also benefit from Case Western Reserve’s location, as Cleveland’s reputation as a tech and startup hub has skyrocketed in recent years, making it one of the most affordable up-and-coming cities in the US. For students looking to invest in the future of the American economy as well as their own careers, Case Western Reserve puts them in a perfect position.
University of Colorado, Boulder
The University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering & Applied Science stresses project-based, experiential learning, with the Integrated Teaching and Learning program, the First-Year Engineering Projects Course, and many more cutting-edge centers designed to back up that commitment. CU-Boulder engineering students begin hands-on project design and execution for real-world applications from the very first year, giving them a high degree of experience along with theory and technical skill. As the best engineering program in the Rocky Mountain region, and connections to the thriving tech industries of the Boulder and Denver areas, CU-Boulder graduates can expect success on the job market and a career that demonstrates Boulder’s best value reputation.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic, in Worcester, MA, is part of the elite company of private polytechnic universities that includes Rensselaer, MIT, and Caltech, a status that includes extraordinarily high ROI and unparalleled reputation in the engineering field. It is, of course, extremely selective and uniquely challenging, with an unusual 7-week semester system that requires students to complete courses in three-quarters the time of a conventional schedule. For those who measure up, WPI is a top value investment that develops students into leaders of the engineering field for years to come.
Michigan Technological University
Like the Colorado School of Mines (#22 above), Michigan Technological University was founded to train miners, and while geological/mining engineering is still an important department in the School of Engineering, MTU has grown into a major STEM university ranked as one of the best in the Midwest region. Engineering students can major any of the major fields of engineering, including highly regarded programs in environmental, mechanical, and electrical engineering. MTU knows engineering, and graduates can trust that their excellent education will translate into a real-world value when they hit the job market.
Lehigh University is a highly-ranked private research university (U.S. News & World Report top 50 in the nation) with a very selective admissions process and low student/faculty ratio, both hallmarks of a high-quality institution. The Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science includes both Lee Iococca and the inventor of the escalator among its alumni, facts that may be useful on your next trivia night, but that also highlight Lehigh’s history of innovation. Today Lehigh has a commitment to meeting growing energy and infrastructure needs, as well as improving the future of post-industrial America, such as its Bethlehem, PA, home. Students can expect an investment in Lehigh to pay off in the future with an ROI near $600,000.
University of California, Irvine
The University of California Irvine’s Samueli School of Engineering – named for the same Henry Samueli as UCLA’s engineering school – is a top 50 engineering school making strides in enrolling women and minorities. Through the Freshman Experiential Learning Program, a unique effort in the UC system, students begin their engineering education in their first year of college, working in multidisciplinary, collaborative teams to carry a project through the planning, development, and manufacturing stages to solve a real-world problem. This kind of education, similar to that offered at CU- Boulder (#42 above), gives students the advantage of practical experience that will be an asset in their careers beyond simple laboratory or classroom learning.
Rutgers University, New Brunswick
Rutgers University is a rarity, one of the nine Colonial Colleges and one of the two (along with William & Mary) that survived as state universities. As New Jersey’s land-grant university Rutgers is best known for its STEM programs, including agriculture, bioengineering, and cognitive science. The School of Engineering is well-regarded throughout the Northeast region, nationally, and internationally, and students can major in not only the conventional fields of engineering, but in innovative interdisciplinary programs such as Bioenvironmental Engineering and Bioresource Engineering.
Yale, along with Harvard (#26 above), is the definitive Ivy League university, a standard in quality and influence. Engineering at Yale dates back to 1852, as a division of what was they called the Scientific School, and the School of Education & Applied Science continues a history of excellence. As the quintessential liberal arts university, Yale Engineering emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of engineering as a practical, technical extension of traditional liberal arts education, as engineerings apply scientific knowledge to solving real-world social problems. Top students can apply to Yale with the security of knowing Yale will make sure all their financial needs are met, and graduate with the advantage of the Yale name – a great investment for those who can get it.
Auburn University, in Auburn, AL, has a long history of applied science and engineering education, reflected in its names over the century and a half of its existence: first, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, then the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, and finally Auburn University, a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution. The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is one of the best engineering schools in the nation and the most significant in Alabama, a growing powerhouse in the field with a commitment to growing women and minorities in the sciences, including, for residential students, living arrangements specially for engineering students to develop relationships and connections for collaboration.
University of Delaware
Closing out the top 50 Best Value Engineering Bachelor’s programs, the University of Delaware is a highly-regarded public university with a deep history of quality. Delaware’s College of Engineering has long been ranked as one of the best, though in recent years steep competition has pushed them out of the top slots; that is very likely to change soon, however, when UD opens their world-class Science, Technology, and Advanced Research Campus, a bid to increase their research production through government and corporate partnerships. Already a solid value, expect to see the marketability of a University of Delaware engineering degree skyrocket in the next few years.
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