SmartMoney ranks a Purdue degree among nation's best buys

January 2009 Greg McClure

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University ranks ninth nationally in SmartMoney magazine's college "payback" survey, which quantifies the long-term value of a college education.

"Public universities turn out to be a far better deal than virtually all the privates we surveyed," according to the January edition of the magazine, which is produced by the Wall Street Journal.

Purdue Provost Randy Woodson said, "This survey reinforces the reality that a degree from Purdue University has great value in the marketplace. We offer an excellent education and attract top students to our flagship campus in West Lafayette."

The article agreed, stating, "Public schools reminded us that it's not just lower degree costs that explain their ranking; they're also attracting brighter students than before. Experts say that with the number of high school grads soaring (last year marked an all-time peak), state schools have been fielding more applications - and becoming increasingly selective. Many public schools we spoke with report a steady rise in their incoming students' SAT scores, GPAs and class rankings."

Tuition at Purdue is $7,750 for in-state students and $23,224 for out-of-state students. The average critical reading SAT score is 554 for current Purdue freshmen. The average SAT math score is 598 and average writing SAT score is 545.

To rank the best buys, the magazine highlights the relationship between tuition costs and graduates' earning power. To determine each school's "payback" ratio, the magazine started with a list of 50 four-year institutions from three categories: Ivy League, liberal arts and public. Data from a survey by, a consultant and online salary database, was used to look at median salaries alumni are earning at two career stages - within five years of graduation (median: three years) and after 10 years (median: 15 years). Each of those figures was divided by the school's historical degree cost and averaged together.

The median salary for Purdue graduates three years after graduation was $51,400, with out-of-state degree costs of $66,472 (class of 2005), according to the survey. Purdue graduates' median salary 15 years after graduation was $90,500, with out-of-state degree costs of $28,660 (class of 1993), according to the data.

The University of Illinois, at No. 7, was the only other Big Ten university in the top 10. The University of Georgia ranked first. Indiana University was 13th.

Writer: Greg McClure, (765) 494-9394,

Source: Randy Woodson, (765) 494-8392,

Related Info:
SmartMoney's article (pdf)

SmartMoney article on the web