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October 1, 2014

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A UNLV degree, it turns out, is pretty valuable

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Students sit outside the student union on the campus of UNLV Wednesday, March 6, 2013.

Dollar for dollar, UNLV graduates see a better return on their investment than their peers at most public universities nationally, according to a report released this week.

Payscale.com, a company that tracks salaries in the U.S., ranked 911 public and private universities based on their graduates' "return on investment," or bang for their buck.

On average, an in-state student who lives on campus and receives financial aid spends about $74,340 to graduate from UNLV, according Payscale.

That may seem like a lot of money, but consider this: A UNLV graduate can expect to earn $16,380 more per year than a high school graduate — or an additional $327,600 over 20 years. The typical starting salary for a UNLV graduate is $42,700 a year.

UNLV ranked 129 among 419 public universities in terms of its degrees' annual return on investment, according to Payscale.

The average UNLV graduate earns a 9 percent annual return on their college investment, which is a better investment than the 20-year U.S. Treasury bond note at 3.4 percent. This means that a UNLV graduate will earn more in 20 years than someone who takes their tuition money and invests it in a 20-year Treasury bond and works straight out of high school.

Graduates from the University of Virginia had the best annual return on investment nationally at 17.6 percent. The average in-state, on-campus student on financial aid spent $25,880 for their degree, and once they graduated, earned an additional $619,100 over 20 years.

Graduates from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina had the worst bang for their buck at -10.6 percent a year. The average in-state, on-campus graduate on financial aid spent $27,020 for their degree, but their counterparts who only graduated from high school out-earned them by $45,400.

When looking at pure long-term financial value, graduates from the Colorado School of Mines earned the the most out of 419 public universities nationally. Graduates from the mining college earned $820,200 more than high school graduates over 20 years.

When also looking at private schools, a degree from Harvey Mudd College in California was the most valuable. A graduate from the small science and engineering school earned $1.1 million more than a high school graduate over 20 years.

When compared with UNR graduates, UNLV graduates don't earn as much over 20 years: $329,800 for UNR grads versus $327,600 for UNLV grads.

However, UNLV is a better value than UNR, according to Payscale. A UNLV graduate's annual return on investment is 9 percent versus 8.7 percent for UNR grads.

To reap these benefits, however, UNLV students must finish their degrees. UNLV's six-year graduation rate is around 43 percent, which is lower than the national average.

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