Babson College, Wellesley, MA
Bob O'Connor

Top 50 Colleges At a Glance

Jul 23, 2014

Which of the nation’s roughly 1,500 four-year colleges and universities provide the biggest bang for your tuition buck—that is, offer students a great education at a comparatively reasonable price that usually leads to a well-paid career? To find out, culled the list of schools to those with a graduation rate at or above the median in its category (public or private), then screened out those with financial difficulties or insufficient data. That left 665 colleges, which were then ranked on 18 factors in three equally-weighted categories: educational quality, affordability, and alumni earnings (included: a “value added” grade that rated each college in light of the economic and academic background of its students and the types of majors that predominate at the institution). These 50 schools went to the head of the class.

1Babson CollegeWellesley, Mass.A$198,900$59,700
2Webb InstituteGlen Cove, N.Y.B$77,600$65,400
3Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge, Mass.B$154,800$68,600
4Princeton UniversityPrinceton, N.J.B$146,200$56,100
5Stanford UniversityStanford, Calif.B+$168,800$61,300
6Harvard UniversityCambridge, Mass.B$181,200$55,300
7Harvey Mudd CollegeClaremont, Calif.B+$187,700$73,300
8Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and ArtNew York, N.Y.B-$146,800$61,400
9Brigham Young UniversityProvo, UtahA-$82,000$50,000
10California Institute of TechnologyPasadena, Calif.B-$174,800$68,400
11University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, Pa.B+$201,600$57,200
12Maine Maritime AcademyCastine, MaineA$105,000$64,100
13University of California - BerkeleyBerkeley, Calif.A-$126,800$54,700
14Williams CollegeWilliamstown, Mass.B$168,600$50,400
15Yale UniversityNew Haven, Conn.B$182,800$50,000
16University of VirginiaCharlottesville, Va.B$94,100$51,000
17Amherst CollegeAmherst, Mass.B$156,700$53,000
18Virginia Military InstituteLexington, Va.B+$89,100$54,200
19Brown UniversityProvidence, R.I.B+$192,000$52,300
20Rice UniversityHouston, TexasB-$149,900$55,700
20Notre DameNotre Dame, Ind.B$184,500$54,000
22University of Michigan - Ann ArborAnn Arbor, Mich.B$94,500$54,000
22Columbia UniversityNew York, N.YB-$206,800$57,600
24Texas A & M UniversityCollege Station, TexasB+$86,000$51,900
24Cornell UniversityIthaca, N.Y.B$194,300$57,000
24Dartmouth CollegeHanover, N.H.B$189,000$55,000
27Colgate UniversityHamilton, N.YB$186,500$51,800
28Bentley UniversityWaltham, Mass.A$177,500$54,700
28University of FloridaGainesville, Fla.B+$87,000$47,600
28Lafayette CollegeEaston, Pa.B+$178,400$57,600
31University of California - Los AngelesLos Angeles, Calif.A$126,700$49,600
32Swarthmore CollegeSwarthmore, Pa.B-$174,800$51,000
32Lehigh UniversityBethlehem, Pa.B+$190,600$58,500
32Principia CollegeElsah, Ill.B$65,500$42,200
32University of California - IrvineIrvine, Calif.A$122,900$48,900
32Duke UniversityDurham, N.C.B$192,800$55,900
37University of Washington at BothellBothell, Wash.A$125,700$52,100
37Georgetown UniversityWashington, D.C.B+$204,500$53,000
39Washington and Lee UniversityLexington, Va.B$149,400$48,000
40University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel Hill, N.C.B$84,100$44,200
40Manhattan CollegeRiverdale, N.Y.A$161,500$55,200
42Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlanta, Ga.B-$107,800$60,700
42Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburg, Va.B+$115,300$51,700
44Bowdoin CollegeBrunswick, MaineB-$179,800$48,500
45Bucknell UniversityLewisburg, Pa.B+$198,100$53,400
46University of California - San DiegoLa Jolla, Calif.A$124,900$49,300
47University of Washington at SeattleSeattle, Wash.B+$117,500$49,300
47Middlebury CollegeMiddlebury, Vt.B$202,800$51,900
47Claremont McKenna CollegeClaremont, Calif.B$196,700$50,100
50Pomona CollegeClaremont, Calif.B-$162,800$48,500
50Massachusetts Maritime AcademyBuzzards Bay, Mass.B$98,700$54,700
50Vanderbilt UniversityNashville, Tenn.C+$160,800$52,100
NOTES: One-year sticker price includes tuition, room, board, books, travel, and miscellaneous expenses. Net price of degree is estimated cost from freshman year to graduation, taking into account all scholarships and grants awarded by the school, inflation, and the average time it takes students to graduate. Public school prices are for in-state students. Value-added grade reflects how much better that school’s students perform, on average, on graduation rates, student loan defaults, and earnings than would be expected given their economic and academic background (measured by the percentage of Pell Grant recipients and average standardized test scores and, for earnings, the mix of majors). Estimated average total loan balance on graduation. Average annual self-reported earnings for respondents who graduated within the past five years. SOURCES: IPEDS, Peterson’s,, MONEY/College Measures calculations
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