Women chemists
The women I see getting chemistry degrees now are a really great group of young people who are excited about their careers and their future. … So it’s very promising,” says assistant professor of chemistry Jenny Yang, here working with postdoctoral associate Charlene Tsay. UCI's chemistry major ranked second in the Money magazine ranking for public universities. Steve Zylius / UC Irvine

Of the dozens of college surveys that rank thousands of universities across the nation, Money magazine’s recent poll has come the closest to cracking the code that answers the question: Which institutions of higher learning provide the best return on investment.

And UCI scores well.

It ranked third among public universities, fourth in the “value-added” category, which charts how well students do versus what they would be expected to do given their socio-economic status, and 13th among all colleges nationwide.

Here’s a quick look at the methodology Money used to determine which of the country’s roughly 1,500 four-year colleges and universities deliver the most value ­ – that is, “a great education, at an affordable price, that helps students launch promising careers.”

  • First, screeners eliminated schools with graduation rates below the median and those facing financial difficulties.
  • The remaining colleges were ranked on 21 factors in three equally weighted categories: educational quality, affordability and alumni earnings.
  • The “value added” grade considered how well students at each school did compared to what would be expected given their economic and academic backgrounds and the institution’s mix of majors.
  • Affordability factors considered included merit aid, parent and student borrowing, the length of time to graduate and tuition increases.

The ranking site includes filters that allow prospective students to search by state, public or private colleges, size, major and more. When filtered for public universities, many of UCI’s majors show up among the top three for return on investment.

Another recent analysis from Jobvite, a recruiting firm that places employees in high-tech careers, listed UCI in the top 20 schools whose graduates are finding jobs in the Silicon Valley.