2013 Best Bang for the Buck Colleges

Posted on August 26th, 2013

We sometimes hear from students and parents asking if college is even worth attending in today’s era of astronomical costs and a still sluggish-economy. For many, college is a great investment that pays off in the long run by giving students opportunities to enter certain career field and make more money over their lifetimes.

But for some people, it’s not worth the cost because they choose the wrong school, never finish their degree, or end up paying too much.

Instead of asking whether college is worth it, Washington Monthly argues that students be asking themselves, “What colleges will charge people like me the least and give me the highest chance of graduating with a degree that means something in the marketplace?”

So the publication created a formula to help college students and families figure it out. They put together a “best-bang-for-the-buck” ranking of colleges–a list of the colleges in America that do the best job of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices

Here are the four criteria for selection:

  1. At least 20 percent of their students must be receiving Pell Grants, which go to students of modest means (typically those with annual household incomes below $50,000).
  2. They must have a graduation rate of at least 50 percent.
  3. Each school’s actual graduation rate must meet or exceed the rate that would be statistically predicted for that school given the number of lower-income students admitted.
  4. Schools must have a student loan default rate of 10 percent or less.

An important part of their methodology was that they used the college’s net price–not the list price–to calculate whether the school offered a good deal in terms of education. “Net price” refers to the average tuition that first-time, full-time students from families with an annual income of $75,000 or less actually pay after subtracting the need-based financial aid they receive. Since this is the price that students actually pay, it offers a much more accurate look at the college’s value.

We’re excited to see some lesser-known schools that are often relegated to the lower rankings in the often-cited U.S. News & World Report get some recognition for offering a great value. The top 10 includes 2 City University of New York (SUNY) schools, and 10 State University of New York (SUNY) colleges made the top 50, including SUNY Plattsburgh, SUNY Oneonta, and SUNY Albany.

Check out the top 20 list below, and be sure to check out the full rankings.

  1. Amherst College (MA) 23% 96% 1% $843
  2. CUNY Queens College (NY)*
  3. CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College (NY)*
  4. 4 CA State University-Fullerton (CA)*
  5. University of Florida (FL)*
  6. CA State University-Long Beach (CA)*
  7. University of Georgia (GA)*
  8. University of NC-Chapel Hill (NC)*
  9. Appalachian State University (NC)*
  10. NC State University-Raleigh (NC)*
  11. Texas A&M Univ.-College Station (TX)*
  12. Brigham Young University-Idaho (ID)
  13. University of NC-Wilmington (NC)*
  14. San Diego State University (CA)*
  15. Arizona State University (AZ)*
  16. Williams College (MA)
  17. Indiana University-Bloomington (IN)*
  18. Rutgers University-Camden (NJ)*
  19. University of Washington-Seattle (WA)*
  20. Florida State University (FL)*

*Indicates a public school.

Category: Choosing a College

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