Here Are the Top 5 Colleges, Ranked by Graduate Income (Harvard Isn’t Even Close)

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For decades, top colleges got by on reputation alone, because there wasn’t good data on how their graduates actually fared in the job market. Many just assumed Harvard graduates were the top contenders, because the Ivy League school was so selective.

Now, thanks to advancements in information technology, it’s much cheaper to track down whether students are able to land a job after graduation, how much they’re paid, and whether they can pay off mountains of debt.

The list comes courtesy of salary database startup PayScale, which recently released their annual rankings of U.S. colleges, re-weighted by job-market success. A few name brand schools, such as Stanford and MIT, do make the top 10. But California’s tech-oriented Harvey Mudd school ranks #1, with an average return on investment (ROI) of nearly $1,000,000 over 20 years.

PayScale uses online surveys, which are much cheaper and pervasive than telephone surveys.

Harvard, ranks #34.

Why? Nearly every top ranked school specializes in technology. Caltech and Stanford are feeder schools for the top tech companies in the world. The smaller schools, such as Babson, are laser-focused on teaching valuable market skills.

It may take some time before a bright-eyed high-schooler chooses Babson over Harvard. But, with sky-rocketing debt, the old reputations may not be as valuable as they once were.