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STARKVILLE, Miss.–The financial return on a college education is a complex calculation involving cost and the potential payoff, according to a recent analysis by the Wall Street Journal.

An interactive tool on the newspaper’s website to help prospective students sort out their options shows Mississippi State offering the best return on investment among the state’s universities.

The Journal’s worksheet at http://graphics.wsj.com/college-costs is designed to help students and families estimate overall college costs, as well as potential financial rewards. It accompanies a recent article titled “Making Sense of Financial Aid.”

Taking into account tuition and other expenses, college loan debt, graduation rates and salaries of graduates, among other factors, the WSJ calculator gives a 7.8 percent return on investment for Mississippi State, compared with 6.7 percent for the next highest university in the state.

MSU students also have the highest average starting salaries–at $41,200–and the highest average mid-career salaries–$72,700–among Mississippi university graduates, according to the interactive tool.

Additionally, MSU students have the lowest median debt upon graduation among the state’s research universities, and the overall lowest loan default rate.

“Choosing a college involves a complex mix of variables, including course offerings, geography and overall fit,” the Journal article said.

“But purely in financial terms,” it added, “families can make smarter decisions by zooming in on factors such as net price after aid, graduation rate, job placement rates and how much you might have to borrow.”

Appearing in the March 22 edition, the article marked the second time in recent months the Journal has cited Mississippi State as a good value. In a December 15 piece, MSU and the universities of Florida and New Mexico were touted as three public universities “that rank among the more affordable.”

In the late 2012 article, the national newspaper noted that, while public college tuition for in-state students averages $8,655 this year, Mississippi State’s tuition rate is $6,264, and about 63 percent of its students receive financial aid.

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