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Posted at 1:13 PM ET, 10/28/2010

New college rankings based on quality, cost

By Valerie Strauss

The folks at Kiplinger.com, which offers financial advice, did some number-crunching and came up with their list of the best values in private universities, taking quality and cost into consideration.

Quality can’t be measured by numbers alone, but the measures used include: admission rates, student-faculty ratios, on-time graduation rate, sticker price and financial aid.

For the 2010-11 list, Swarthmore College returns to the top of the liberal-arts list after a two-year hiatus, and Princeton University heads the private university list, nudging out the California Institute of Technology, which held the title for the past four years.

Schools with a sticker price of almost $50,000 a year hardly seem like a great value, unless kids are given a Bentley to drive to class, but Kiplinger’s calculated what it says is the true cost, based on need-based and non-need-based financial aid.

Kiplinger’s says that the net average price -- the amount families pay after financial aid is applied -- is a relatively reasonable $22,000 a year for the top values in colleges and universities, and some of the best institutions in the country, and on our list, offer a net price below $20,000.

That compares to the average cost of a year at a four-year private school of about $36,000 (compared with $21,000 a decade ago), according to the College Board.

You will notice if you keep reading that the top 10 universities are dominated by Ivy League-plus schools, which are available to a tiny fraction of college students.

A list of the top schools, and the rest, along with the methodology and lots of statistics, are available here.

The top 10 universities:

1. Princeton, Princeton, N.J.
Total Cost: $49,055
Average need-based aid: $33,428
No non-need-based aid given
Average debt upon graduation: $4,957

2. Yale, New Haven, Conn.
Total Cost: $50,800
Average need-based aid: $37,639
No non-need-based aid given
Average debt upon graduation: $10,717

3. Cal. Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.
Total Cost: $49,002
Average need-based aid: $30,069
Average non-need based aid: $34,967
Average debt upon graduation: $8,218

4. Rice, Houston, Tex.
Total Cost: $46,321
Average need-based aid: $24,104
Average non-need based aid: $14,665
Average debt upon graduation: $16,716

5. Duke, Durham, N.C.
Total Cost: $53,157
Average need-based aid: $33,810
Average non-need based aid: $23,185
Average debt upon graduation: $23,059

6. Harvard, Cambridge, Mass.
Total Cost: $53,227
Average need-based aid: $37,620
No non-need based aid given
Average debt upon graduation: $10,871

7. Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
Total Cost: $53,064
Average need-based aid: $30,043
No non-need based aid given
Average debt upon graduation: $17,787

8. Columbia, New York, N.Y.
Total Cost: $57,192
Average need-based aid: $35,705
No non-need based aid given
Average debt upon graduation: $11,564

9. Brown, Providence, R.I.
Total Cost: $52,670
Average need-based aid: 31,474
Average non-need based aid: $14,000
Average debt upon graduation: $21,858

10. Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.
Total Cost: $54,175
Average need-based aid: $35,209
Average non-need based aid: $450
Average debt upon graduation: $19,081


And here are the top 10 liberal arts schools:
1. Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pa.
2. Pomona College, Claremont, Calif.
3. Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.
4. Washington and Lee Univ., Lexington, Va.
5. Davidson College, Davidson, N.C.
6. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine
7. Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, Calif.
8. Amherst College, Amherst, Mass.
9. Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.
10. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

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By Valerie Strauss  | October 28, 2010; 1:13 PM ET
Categories:  College Costs  | Tags:  best values in education, caltech, college costs, duke, harvard, higher education costs, kiplingers, kiplingers best values, mit, princeton, private schools, rice university, swarthmore college, total college costs, yale  
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