CHARLOTTE, N.C., /via PRNewswire/  The best colleges. The lowest costs. The highest returns.

It’s become commonplace for higher education experts to say that today’s bachelor’s degree is yesterday’s high school diploma – a must to get a professional job, but not enough to lift professionals into higher positions of authority, responsibility, and income. True enough, in most fields today the only way for a worker to enter fields of management and administration is with a master’s degree.

 Value Colleges, an online guide to the best values in undergraduate and graduate education, is pleased to share theirTop 50 Best Value Graduate Schools for 2017.

With the job market constantly increasing in competitiveness and working professionals in need of higher credentials for promotion and status, more people are going to graduate school than ever. Value Colleges has researched accredited, residential graduate programs to rank the colleges and universities that offer students a prime combination of opportunity, educational excellence, and financial accessibility.

Value Colleges ranks the top 50 online colleges using the following criteria: reputation according to U.S. News & World Report (graduate subject rankings); cost, including annual average tuition and fees for graduate students; and ROI according to Payscale’s salary data (mid-career pay).

The top 3 Best Values for 2017 are:

  1. University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland;
  2. University of California in Berkeley, California; and
  3. University of Texas in Austin, Texas.

Value Colleges recommends only accredited, reputable colleges and universities that provide their students with an ideal balance of educational quality, affordability, and career opportunity. We start with information from the IPEDS Database, setting parameters for institutions with high graduation rates, high Carnegie Foundation classifications (meaning the most productive research universities that provide students with high-quality, hands-on research opportunities) and a high number of graduate programs. We then rank the qualified institutions on the following:

  • REPUTATION — Featured on U.S. News Graduate Subject Rankings
  • COST — Annual average tuition and fees for Graduate Students
  • ROI — Payscale’s salary data (mid-career pay)

The full list, in alphabetical order, reads as follows:

Arizona State University - Tempe, AZ
Brigham Young University - Provo, UT
College of William & Mary - Williamsburg, VA
George Mason University - Fairfax, VA
George Washington University - Washington, DC
Iowa State University - Ames, IA
Louisiana State University - Baton Rouge, LA
North Carolina State University - Raleigh, NC
Northeastern University - Boston, MA
Northwestern University - Evanston, IL
Ohio State University - Columbus, OH
Ohio University - Athens, OH
Oregon State University - Corvallis, OR
Rutgers University - New Brunswick, NJ
Southern Methodist University - Dallas, TX
Temple University - Philadelphia, PA
Texas A&M University - College Station, TX
Texas Tech University - Lubbock, TX
University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ
University of Arkansas - Fayetteville, AR
University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley, CA
University of California, Davis - Davis, CA
University of Colorado Boulder - Boulder, CO
University of Florida - Gainesville, FL
University of Houston - Houston, TX
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA
University of Kansas - Lawrence, KS
University of Maryland, College Park - College Park, MA
University of Massachusetts Amherst - Amherst, MA
University of Miami - Coral Gables, FL
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI
University of Minnesota Twin Cities - Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
University of Missouri - Columbia, MO
University of Nebraska-Lincoln - Lincoln, NE
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC
University of North Carolina at Charlotte - Charlotte, NC
University of Oklahoma - Norman, OK
University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA
University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA
University of Tennessee - Knoxville, TN
University of Texas at Arlington - Arlington, TX
University of Texas at Austin - Austin, TX
University of Texas at Dallas - Richardson, TX
University of Southern California - Los Angeles, CA
University of Utah - Salt Lake City, UT
University of Virginia - Charlottesville, VA
University of Washington - Seattle, WA
University of Wisconsin - Madison, WI
Vanderbilt University - Nashville, TN

“While many working adults are turning online, residential programs offer exceptional opportunities for networking and mentorship that cannot be obtained online,” says site editor Carrie Sealey-Morris. “Graduate school, like the job market itself, is becoming increasingly competitive. More working adults are returning to school to earn their master’s degrees, and more traditional-aged students are entering graduate school directly after finishing their undergraduate degree.”

The Value Colleges Best Value ranking is designed to give prospective students the tools they need to make smart decisions-not just about going back to school, but going back to school in the most financially beneficial way.

Value Colleges has a mission to help future students-whether they are working professionals, new graduates, minority and first-generation students, or others-to find residential and online degree programs that will help them make their goals a reality. Value Colleges is unbiased, ranking degree programs, providing guides for the complex financial and professional questions of college students, and offering honest facts about the potential and pitfalls of a college education.

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor, Value Colleges