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New Jersey’s colleges with the best value for money, according to survey

New Jersey’s colleges with the best value for money, according to survey
New Jersey’s colleges with the best value for money, according to survey

Six North Jersey colleges made it into the state’s top 10 schools, including two technology-focused institutions and one college that ranks among the top in student enrollment.

Princeton University in Mercer County took first place in a study by SmartAsset, a consumer-focused online financial advisory system. But students at the following top Garden State schools also get the best value: Rutgers University, Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Ramapo College, Seton Hall University and Drew University all made the Garden State’s top 10.

SmartAsset reviewed the state’s 31 four-year colleges and universities and compiled the list of colleges offering the best value based on a number of factors and data sets. The company rated each college on a scale of 100, which is called an educational value score, and gave 25% weight to graduates’ starting salary, tuition (taking into account in-state tuition rates, if applicable), and living expenses such as room and board, books, supplies, and transportation. An additional 12.5% ​​weight was given to scholarships and grants, as well as retention rate (the number of students who re-enrolled in college the next year).

A college degree increases skills, job prospects and wealth, but it’s crucial to choose a college where the degree will be useful for years to come. Here are the colleges in North Jersey that rank in the top 10 according to SmartAsset:

No. 2: Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, Hudson County)

Located not directly in New York City but just across the Hudson River in Hoboken, Stevens offers strong programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. Stevens, a private research university founded in 1870 as one of the oldest technical universities in the country, received a higher education score of 76.31 in the survey.

An audit of this leading school found that it had the second-highest tuition on the list at $61,598, surpassing only Princeton. However, it offered its students an average of $28,755 in scholarships and grants, the second-highest amount on the list.

On average, 93% of students returned the following year and the cost of living was just over $20,000.

But is the degree worth it in the long run? Graduates earned an average of $80,400 – a figure that exceeds the median annual income of New Jersey residents of $76,128, according to 2023 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

No. 4: New Jersey Institute of Technology (Newark, Essex County)

Located in the University Heights neighborhood of downtown Newark and about 20 minutes by train from New York City, NJIT is a public research university offering over 125 degree programs ranging from STEM subjects to architecture and the humanities.

SmartAsset gave the college an education score of 63.85, with tuition of $20,459, nearly a quarter of the cost of Stevens. NJIT had the second-highest cost of living among schools in the top 10 (Princeton was also near the top here), with students shelling out $24,072. The school had an 88% retention rate and offered an average of $13,836 in scholarships and grants.

The median starting salary for an NJIT graduate was $69,200.

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No. 6: Rutgers University – Newark (Essex County)

The State University of New Jersey’s Newark campus, one of three regional campuses, offers 40 undergraduate degree programs and 50 graduate and professional degree programs to a diverse population in a major city near New York City. It is also home to the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice and Rutgers Law School, one of two graduate schools the college offers in the state.

With an annual tuition of $17,003 and an average salary of $62,200 upon graduation, SmartAsset rated the college with an educational score of 61.13.

The college boasts a student retention rate of 86%, student living expenses average $21,593, and scholarships and grants average around $13,039.

No. 7: Ramapo College of New Jersey (Mahwah, Bergen County)

The school is a public liberal arts college in Mahwah and offers more than 40 academic programs in five schools on its 300-acre campus adjacent to the Ramapo Valley Reservation.

The school outperformed the others in the top 10 by offering students the lowest tuition of $16,961, but its education score of 52.27 is due in part to the average college salary of $54,700 and average scholarships and grants of $10,213. The graduation rate was 87% with a student living cost of $20,294.

No. 8: Seton Hall University (South Orange, Essex County)

Seton Hall’s 140-acre campus is located in South Orange, a neighborhood best known for its gorgeous architecture, demographic diversity and short commute to Manhattan, according to the New York Times. The private Roman Catholic school earned an education score of 51.86 on SmartAsset, likely due to its $49,761 annual tuition, which is higher than the previous five schools on the list.

The college awards an average of $28,235 in scholarships and grants to students (third highest among the top 10), has a median starting salary of $61,700, and a cost of living of $20,650, but may lose some points for its 83% graduation rate, the second lowest on the list.

No. 10: Drew University (Madison, Morris County)

Rounding out the list is Drew, a private university on 180 acres that offers suburban living about an hour’s drive from New York City.

With over 60 degree programs, the college has an 88% retention rate, higher than the four schools ahead of it on the list, and offers an average of $26,175 in scholarships and grants. The school earned an education score of 49.19.

While the cost of living is about average for the colleges on this list at $20,567, tuition is nearly $47,000, making it the fourth highest among the top 10 colleges on the list. Graduates receive an average salary of $57,800.

NJ College with the best value for money and full top 10

Princeton University in Central Jersey, an elite private university, boasts an impressive 96% student retention rate and offers its students an average of $50,583 in scholarships and grants. The college received an education score of 87.90.

Those in the top 6% who are accepted each year must shell out $59,401 for tuition and an additional $24,261 for living expenses. In hindsight, however, it may be well justified for graduates when you consider that the average graduate salary is $81,800—nearly $6,000 more than the national average.

Here are the remaining schools that made it into the top 10 list:

  • No. 3: Rutgers University – New Brunswick (Middlesex County)
  • No. 5: The College of New Jersey – (Ewing, Mercer County)
  • No. 9: Rutgers University – Camden (Camden County)

Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @LoriComstockNJH or on Facebook.

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