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A new study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has found that DigiPen Institute of Technology offers the best return on investment (ROI) among Washington state higher education institutions. The same study also listed DigiPen among the top 1% of colleges in the nation for long-term value.

By surveying over 4,500 colleges across the country and analyzing the average student’s “net price, median debt, and median earnings,” the study’s authors ranked each school by net present value (NPV) — a measure of a student’s ROI in their education — over the course of 10, 15, 20, 30, and 40 years. The study determined that DigiPen students averaged a 40-year NPV of $1,616,000, the 35th highest in the country.

While snapshots of schools’ total costs and median salaries are easy to find, the study’s authors identified a “lack of guidance on how the data can be used to guide college investment choices.” For students and families that focus on the expense of a college education, NPV may be the preferred statistic to consider. In the vast majority of cases, investing in an education of any length or type produces some positive ROI. But to get the whole picture about the entire value of an education, households should be comparing schools’ outcomes far into the future, often 30 and 40 years after a student’s enrollment.

While many of the highest short-term ROI comes from community colleges and certificate programs (which may have lower upfront costs), the study concluded that students who attend colleges awarding 4-year bachelor degrees tend to have a higher ROI over the long term. DigiPen ranks in the top echelon among these bachelor’s degree-granting colleges.

For those who help shape DigiPen’s vision for educating through the lens of video games and interactive media, it’s no surprise that the school’s students and alumni have experienced such long-term success.

“Our degree programs are highly focused on science, art, and technology, because we know how to prepare our students to excel in these fields,” says Erik Mohrmann, Dean of Faculty. “This new study shows what we’ve already known about our graduates: In the short term, they are ready to meet the needs of today’s employers all over the world. In the long term, they’ll benefit from a solid academic background that sets them up for lifelong career success.”

Mohrmann also credits DigiPen’s exceptional performance in these rankings to its unique approach to teaching programming, animation, design, and music and sound.

“DigiPen’s curriculum includes many elements that are fairly rare in other schools,” says Mohrmann. “Our students work together in interdisciplinary teams to produce large-scale projects that last more than one semester. We lay down an academic foundation in each discipline and then move into a project-based learning environment that mirrors the workforce they’ll be entering.”

Previous to the current study’s analysis, DigiPen students were found to have the highest median salary among all Washington state colleges and universities, per the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard — also putting it in the top 1% in the country. The school’s nine undergraduate degree programs and two master’s degree programs include the world’s first bachelor degree in video game development.

A full, sortable list of the surveyed schools, their NPV ranks, and an explanation of the statistics can be found at the Center on Education and the Workforce’s website.