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Best Values in Public and Private Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges

At a time of rising college costs and skepticism about the merits of a college education, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has tackled the topic of institutions which offer the best educational value to their students. Its rankings measure academic quality and affordability with quality accounting for two-thirds of the total. Kiplinger’s ranking criteria for four year institutions with a broad based curriculum, and the rankings themselves for the 2010-2011 academic year follow.

Ranking Criteria for Best Public and Private Universities:

SAT or ACT: shows the percentage of the freshman class that scored 600 or higher on the verbal and math SATs, or 24 or higher on the ACT.
Students per faculty: the average number of students per instructor.
Graduation rate: the percentage of freshman who earned a bachelor’s degree within four years or five years.
Total cost for the current academic year: includes tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, and estimated expenses for books.
Cost after need-based aid: the total cost minus the average need based aid amount (excluding loans).
Aid from grants: the percentage of the average aid package that came from grants or scholarships.
Costs after non-need based: the cost for a student with no demonstrated need after subtracting the average non-need based aid amount (excluding loans).
Non-need-based aid: the percentage of all undergraduates without need who received non-need-based aid.
Average debt at graduation: the average amount owed by graduates who took out education loans.
To break ties, academic quality scores and average debt at graduation were used.

Best Values in Public Universities
1. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2. University of Florida, Gainesville
3. University of Virginia, Charlottesville
4. The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA
5. University of Maryland, College Park
6. State University of New York at Binghamton
7. State University of New York College at Genesco
8. University of Georgia, Athens
9. University of Wisconsin, Madison
10. University of Washington, Seattle

Best Values in Private Universities
1. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
2. Yale University, New Haven, CT
3. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena
4. Rice University, Houston, TX
5. Duke University, Durham, NC
6. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
7. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
8. Columbia University, New York City
9. Brown University, Providence, RI
10. Dartmouth College, Hanover, MA

Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges
1. Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
2. Pomona College, Claremont, CA
3. Williams College, Williamstown, MA
4. Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA
5. Davidson College, Davidson, NC
6. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME
7. Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA
8. Amherst College, Amherst, MA
9. Hamilton College, Clinton, NY
10. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

A more comprehensive and detailed analysis of the best values among institutions of higher learning can be found at Kiplinger’s website. Navigating the application process for these institutions can be facilitated through a private college counselor.
David Dickson is a private counselor at Top Test Prep which offers tutoring and test preparation with admissions experts who help you gain admission to your top schools. For information on private tutoring and admissions counseling, call (800) 501-Prep.