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Apr 25, 2017 09:43 AM EDT

It is a bit difficult to measure the value of education, especially if the measurement is based on intangible factors such as knowledge gained, experiences and lessons learned, opportunities that are seized, and the connections and networks established. So if college graduates really want to place a price based on what they gained during college, here's how.

According to Payscale, when calculating the values in monetary terms, the cost to attend is one big variable that will have to be considered. However, the sad part is that it is difficult to determine what the true net cost could be. There is an information gap because some colleges will often reduce the cost of education due to scholarships and financial aids. But this information gap matters because the actual cost of attending a particular school plays an important role when parents and students choose the right college.

To make the decision-making simpler, Payscale ranked colleges and universities based on their 20 year return of investment, instead of the costs. Here's the top 5 colleges, according to CNBC.

1. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

Total 4-year cost: $33,100

Total 20-year return on investment: $1,056,000

This is the only college on the list with a seven figure ROI, all because of the school's subsidized tuition.

2. Harvey Mudd College

Total 4-year cost: $260,000

Total 20-year return on investment: $962,000

The payment of the students to this school pays off because of high average salaries students earn.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Total 4-year cost: $240,000

Total 20-year return on investment: $959,000

The total cost of college in this school may be very expensive but graduates earn the benefits with their 20 years of earnings.

4. State University of New York Maritime College

Total 4-year cost: $92,300

20-year return on investment: $895,000

This is one of the many seafaring schools which has taken a spot in the ranking by Payscale.

5. Colorado School of Mines

Total 4-year cost: $123,000

20-year return on investment: $883,000

Those who graduate from this school definitely get a good value not only for their money, but also for their efforts.

Follows best value, college, highest, ROI, return of investment
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