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Top 10 Best Value Colleges of 2012

by Student Loan Daddy

When it comes to higher education, it’s often just as important to determine how you’re going to come up with money for college as it is to determine which college you’re actually going to attend. While there are plenty of resources for figuring out how you’re going to pay for college, we thought we’d take a look at which colleges you should consider attending.

The Princeton Review just released its 2012 list of the best value public and private colleges in the United States. The list, which estimates which out of 650 colleges offer the most bang for the buck, was put together and ranked based on things like institutional data and student opinion surveys from the fall of 2010 to the fall of 2011. All sorts of factors were considered, including things like undergraduate academics, costs, financial aid, the percentage of graduating seniors who borrowed student loans, and the average debt borrowers had upon graduation.

We’ll talk more about methodology below, but for now, and without further ado, here’s The Princeton Review’s list of the best value colleges for 2012:

Top 10 Public Colleges Top 10 Private Colleges
1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Williams College
2. University of Virginia Swarthmore College
3. New College of Florida Princeton University
4. State University of New York at Binghampton Harvard College
5. University of Wisconsin Rice University
6. College of William and Mary Pomona College
7. University of Florida Washington University
8. University of Georgia Yale University
9. University of Washington California Institute of Technology
10. University of Texas at Austin Hamilton College

A Word on Methodology

So how did The Princeton Review come up with their list of best value colleges for 2012? Well, all of the schools on its list have similar qualities, including being able to provide strong academics at a modest cost, and students who attend these schools reported not feeling that they have to mortgage their future to attend. But beyond that, the rankings took three main ratings into consideration: academics, financial aid, and tuition GPA.

Academic rating is determined by combining students’ opinions about the education they receive (including information on study habits, professors, class size, etc.) with a variety of statistics reported by each college and university (including information on admissions data).

Financial aid rating is determined based on a combination of institutionally-reported data and student opinion. Schools are asked about the amount of need-based financial aid they provide and students are asked to rate how happy they are with their aid packages.

Tuition GPA, or the Real Cost of College, is determined by subtracting the average gift aid (scholarships and grants) awarded to students from the sticker price of each school (tuition and room and board). Work study and student loans don’t factor. The result is analyzed in an algorithm that weighs academics, financial aid, and tuition and spits out a number used to rank schools based on their bang-for-the-buck value.

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