A new survey on the value of colleges gives high marks to the worth of a Duke University degree but gives significantly lower rankings to North Carolina schools like N.C. State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The ranking, by the website PayScale, looked at the return on investment from a bachelor's degree in 850 colleges. The data came from employees who completed a PayScale survey but only included those who completed only a bachelor's degree.
So, for example, a Duke graduate who later got a master's in business administration, or an N.C. State graduate who became a lawyer would not be included.
Duke ranked an impressive eighth on the list for 2012, despite the high cost of a Duke education, and was 38th for the 2013 rankings.
"Any college education will add about a million dollars worth of lifetime earning," said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president of public affairs and government relations at Duke.
"You have the opportunity to study with some of the finest minds in the world, experts in the field - the people who write the books and do the research."
N.C. State ranked 171th for in-state graduates and 210 for out-of-state graduates. (State was 155th in-state and 190 out-of-state in 2012).
UNC ranked just 362 in-state and 496 out-of-state after ranking 214th for an in-state education and 298 for out-of-state in 2012.
"It is surprising," said Melissa Wrzesien, a UNC student. "UNC is always on the lists for the best quality for your money."
Among other North Carolina schools (public schools are ranked for in-state and out-of-state):
The report comes at a time of rising debate about the value and cost of a college education. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has insisted the state needs to tie funding for public education more closely with the needs of the work force.
McCrory first made those comments on Bill Bennett's radio show. Bennett is a former U.S. Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan and he has written extensively about issues involving education.
Bennett, in a recent piece on Fox News, addressed the rising cost of education compared with the difficulty of getting a job in a tough economy.
He wrote, "Ultimately, a college education can still be a good investment, but it is not necessarily the right choice for everyone.
Students need to make smart decisions about their capacity for academic work, the job prospects for their major, and how they will pay for their education."
The top-ranked college, by the way, was Harvey Mudd College, with a typical starting salary after graduation of $66,800.