This week Caltech, UCLA and USC ended up in the top 25 of U.S. News & World Report's annual “Best Colleges” ranking of national universities.

Though it has its critics, the list is America's most widely read guide to the nation's most well-regarded schools. There's one other guide, however, that promises to help students find not the best education, but quite possibly the richest one.

See also: UCLA Beats USC in “Best Colleges” Ranking

The salary-search site PayScale this week did its own analysis of America's four-year institutions and concluded that an L.A.-based college gives its graduate the greatest “salary potential.”


Yeah, forget Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, which came in first through forth, respectively, on the U.S. News list.

If you want the most bang for your buck, Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, one of the five respected Claremont Colleges, is the place to be, says PayScale:

Harvey Mudd may not have the name recognition of MIT or CalTech, but its alumni, nearly all (86 percent) of whom graduate with a STEM [science, technology, engineering or math] degree, take top honors for high earning potential.

The site says you can expect an “early career salary” of $75,600 a year and a mid-career salary of $133,800 if you attend this small liberal arts school.

That's good money. The median income for a single wage earner in Los Angeles is a little more than $27,000,  which will get you a crappy apartment, a roommate and some instant noodles.

Sounds like a good deal, but remember that it takes money to make money. It will cost you $193,260 to attend Harvey Mudd for four years. Hello mother, hello father.

Credit: PayScale

Credit: PayScale

Pasadena's Caltech made No. 6 on the list of top salary-potential schools, too. Expect $74,800 early on and $126,200 later in life if you can make it to this competitive school, PayScale says.

Honorable mentions go to UC San Diego (No. 49 on the salary list), Eagle Rock's Occidental (51), UC Irvine (69), USC (78), UC Santa Barbara (86), Claremont McKenna (91), UCLA (92), Loyola Marymount (101), St. Mary's College (107), Cal Poly Pomona (118), Pomona College (122), UC Riverside (154), Cal State Long Beach (163), University of San Diego (185), California Lutheran (185), and University of Redlands (189).

PayScale says it came up with its list by looking at “the median salaries” of 1.5 million “alumni who received … a four-year degree” at about 1,000 schools.

By knowing how much you can expect to earn after getting your bachelor's degree, you can choose a school wisely and set yourself up for future financial security, especially when evaluating how much to borrow to help pay for your education.

So go ahead, kids, get that money. Just remember how much it will cost you.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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