Best Schools for Computer Science (Plus Tuition Costs)

By Phill Powell

Comp-sci-UC Berkeley
Computer science is very rewarding at UC Berkeley, where you can earn a degree worth more than $1.1 million over a 30-year career. (Or maybe you’d like to explore comp sci this summer at fun tech camps at UC Berkeley?)

What are the very best schools for computer science, and what does it cost to attend each? And which colleges and universities offer the most long-term value to graduates?

A recent online comparison tackles those questions by ranking the top 25 computer science university programs in the U.S.

The results provide extremely valuable information for aspiring comp sci majors and their parents. The rankings are particularly useful for parents because they are based on estimated return on investment (ROI) for each school.

The online story about the top-ranked computer science programs with best return on investment breaks out ROI according to a 30-year cycle, studying what the average comp sci grad from each school would likely earn based upon their degree and salary expectations.

According to the report, the average annual pay for computer scientists tops $100K. The ranking of schools was conducted through the Academic Ranking of World Universities and uses ROI data compiled by Payscale’s Colleges Worth Your Investment.

Turning Degrees into Dollars
So where does the comp sci student/parent get the most bang for their educational buck? Here are the top 15 comp sci programs among American colleges and universities, according to Best Value Schools’ online comparison. (We’ve added the annual tuition costs for each school, as well as info about notable alumni who have achieved great things in comp sci.) Each of the following colleges and universities is a true powerhouse when it comes to computer science:

15. University of Maryland
Location: College Park, Maryland
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $934,800
Annual Tuition (In-state): $7,175
Annual Tuition (Out-of-state): $25,554
Notable Alumni: Google co-founder Sergey Brin got his undergrad degree from the school, as did George Dantzig, considered the father of linear programming.

14. University of California, Santa Barbara
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $939,900
Annual Tuition (In-state): $11,220
Annual Tuition (Out-of-state): $34,098
Notable Alumni: Oracle chairman Jeffrey Henley and Michael Freedman (Director of Microsoft Station Q) graduated from UC – Santa Barbara.

13. Yale University
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $954,300
Annual Tuition: $42,300
Notable Alumni: Electronic Arts co-founder Bing Gordon graduated from Yale.

12. University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign
Location: Urbana/Champaign, Illinois
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,030,000
Annual Tuition (In-state): $12,603
Annual Tuition (Out-of-state): $28,230
Notable Alumni: A long list of comp sci superstars includes alumni Marc Andreesen (Netscape), Max Levchin (PayPal), Thomas Siebel of Siebel Systems, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim of YouTube, Larry Ellison and Bob Miner (Oracle), Ray Ozzie (Lotus), Joe Hewitt (Firefox) and Dave Hyatt (Safari). Comp sci creations invented by alumni include the LED, Javascript™ and the integrated circuit. The school’s Coordinated Science Laboratory was where the plasma TV and the first computer-assisted instruction program were created. (Plus, in the 1968 space epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, the HAL 9000 computer “states” that it was programmed here.)

11. University of California, San Diego
Location: San Diego, California
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,040,000
Annual Tuition (In-state): $11,220
Annual Tuition (Out-of-state): $34,098
Notable Alumni: The development team responsible for creating the Apple Macintosh was led by UCSD alumni Bill Atkinson and Bud Tribble.

10. Cornell University
Location: Ithaca, New York
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,120,000
Annual Tuition: $43,185
Notable Alumni: Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs graduated Cornell, as did iPod developer Jon Rubinstein and Robert Tappan Morris, who developed the first computer worm.

9. Columbia University
Location: New York, New York
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,180,000
Annual Tuition: $45,028
Notable Alumni: Columbia alumni have distinguished themselves in computer science, including Herman Hollerith (founder of IBM), Google China’s Kai-Fu Lee and Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox.

8. University of California, Berkeley
Location: Berkeley, California
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,180,000
Annual Tuition (In-state): $11,220
Annual Tuition (Out-of-state): $34,098
Notable Alumni: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and Google’s Eric Schmidt attended UC – Berkeley. Also, Unix creator Ken Thompson, Charles Simonyi (who developed the first WYSIWIG word processor program) and Douglas Engelbart, the man who created the computer mouse.

7. Carnegie Mellon University
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,220,000
Annual Tuition: $44,880
Notable Alumni: James Gosling, creator of Java™, Andy Bechtolsheim (co-founder of Sun Microsystems) and Alan Perlis, a pioneer in programming languages.

6. Princeton University
Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,230,000
Annual Tuition: $38,650
Notable Alumni: Amazon CEO/founder Jeff Bezos, Google exec Eric Schmidt

5. Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,330,000
Annual Tuition: $37,576
Notable Alumni: Microsoft’s Bill Gates attended Harvard, as did Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and computer pioneer An Wang.

4. Georgia Institute of Technology
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,390,000
Annual Tuition (In-state): $7,718
Annual Tuition (Out-of-state): $27,022
Notable Alumni: Tech grad Krishna Bharat developed Google News while D. Richard Hipp developed SQLite.

Comp-sci-stanfordElectrical engineering doctoral student at Stanford University, showing wafers containing carbon nanotube computers (CNT).

3. Stanford University
Location: Stanford, California
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,430,000
Annual Tuition: $41,250
Notable Alumni: Stanford has produced the second-highest number of billionaires of all universities. Companies founded by Stanford alumni include Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Yahoo!, Google (Sergey Brin, who got his grad degree there) and PayPal (Elon Musk).

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,600,000
Annual Tuition: $41,770
Notable Alumni: Founders or co-founders of companies related to computer science, such as Texas Instruments, Qualcomm, Intel and Dropbox.

1. California Institute of Technology
Location: Pasadena, California
Average 30-Year Net ROI: $1,990,000
Annual Tuition: $38,085
Notable Alumni: Nobel winner William Shockley co-invented the solid state transistor and is considered the “father of Silicon Valley.” Caltech’s alumni also includes Gordon Moore (co-founder of Intel), Donald Knuth (known for being the first to analyze algorithms) and John McCarthy (inventor of the Lisp programming language).

Starting Early for Success
Parents whose kids are still years away from finalizing their career plans may want to know how to get their children on a fast track to success. If that kid or teen already shows an interest and aptitude for computers and programming, it makes sense to give them a chance to “test drive” their talents at a summer tech camp.

Digital Media Academy offers 10 programs related to computer science for kids age 8 to 12, as well as 15 comp-sci-related courses for teens age 12 to 17. DMA tech camps are held on some of the most prestigious university campuses in the U.S. and Canada. In fact, DMA has tech camp locations at 9 of the 25 schools cited in the ROI report, including: Stanford Univ. (#3 in rankings), Harvard Univ. (#5), UC – Berkeley (#8), and UC – San Diego (#11).
This summer, give your kid or teen a chance to discover a future career by exploring computer science at a DMA tech camp on a great college campus. Classes fill up early and special holiday savings are in effect until December 20, so register now.