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Computer Science

Computer Science Return on Investment

The return on investment (ROI) is an important factor to consider when selecting a degree and a university. The graph and calculations below show the return on investment for a computer science degree at Kansas State University. As computer science careers are one the best paid and fastest growing fields, it should not be a surprise that the return on investment is excellent, over 1,000%! Not only that, but the break even point is only 5 years after graduation!


To avoid "over-hype", we have used parameters for calculating the ROI that are conservative. While the average starting salary of a K-State CS graduate is $70,000, we use the US median salary of $105,590 per year, which comes from the Bureau of Labor for Software Developers. We believe this number is conservative since it includes employees with and without actual computer science degrees and several recent graduates have earned starting salaries larger than that. The median high school graduate's salary is $37,024, which also comes from the Bureau of Labor. Based on these numbers, over a lifetime, a CS graduate can expect to year $3,085,470 more than a typical high school graduate. If you assume the entire cost of attendance over 4 years is financed and include student loan interest, the entire investment (cost of attendance, student load interest, and lost wages during school) is $254,864. Dividing the $3.0M salary gain by the investment cost of $254K gives a return on investment of over 1,000%!

Years to Graduation4
Average K-State CS Starting Salary               
$ 70,000
Median CS Salary (US)$ 105,590
Median HS Graduate Salary (US)$ 37,024
Profit (CS salary gain over HS degree)$ 3,085,470
Student loan interest$ 35,473
Investment (degree cost + interest + lost salary) $ 254,864
Return on Investment1097%

We use the tuition and fee rates from the university as shown below. While the basic out-of-state cost is 60% higher than in-state costs, automatic scholarships for out-of-state students (based on qualifications) can reduce that to only 13%. And that is before additional scholarships and grants have been applied.

Tuition (average)  
  Kansas : $312.50 per hour$ 4,688$ 9,375
  Out-of-state: $841.70 per hour$ 12,626$ 25,251
Engineering Fee ($99)$ 557$ 1,114
Other college's fees$ 157$ 313
Campus Fees (privilege/infrastructure)$ 533$ 1,065
Housing (residence halls)$ 4,950$ 9,900
Books and supplies$ 463$ 925
Miscellaneous$ 2,000$ 4,000
Total (Kansas)$ 13,346$ 26,692
Total (Out-of-state)$ 21,284$ 42,568

Return on investment (ROI) measures the gain or loss of investment relative to the amount of money invested. ROI is typically stated as a percentage and can be used for a variety of financial decisions. From an educational standpoint, the ROI is useful for determining the financial benefit expected to be gained from a specific degree at a specific university and can be used to compare different degrees or the same degree across multiple universities. While the financial impact of a degree is important, there are several other factors that should be considered when selecting a degree and a university. This information is provided as help in making these decisions and does not guarantee specific costs, salaries or returns.