Value is the focus of President Barack Obama's new college affordability plan. Specifically, which schools offer the best value. While the president's criteria for what constitutes value in higher education are still a work in progress, U.S. News has its own measure to help students determine which colleges and universities offer the most bang for their buck.
The Best Value Schools rankings, part of the 2014 Best Colleges rankings, evaluate schools using three factors: academic quality in relation to price, percent of students receiving need-based aid and average discount. The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal.
Many of the schools on this list don't appear affordable – the top five Best Value Schools among National Universities all charge in excess of $40,000 in tuition and fees alone – so students need to look beyond sticker price.
Harvard University listed 2012-2013 tuition, room and board, fees and expenses at $57,950, but awarded need-based financial aid – grants and scholarships – to nearly 60 percent of undergrads. The average cost of attendance for students receiving those funds was $15,486, a 73 percent discount, making it the No. 1 Best Value School among National Universities.
U.S. News believes colleges that are academically above average offer the most significant value to students. Only schools ranked in or near the top half of their category qualify for the Best Value Schools rankings. Yale University, Princeton University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – which round out the top five Best Value Schools – ranked among the top 10 in this year's Best Colleges rankings.
The infographic below highlights the average discount off a school's total cost for those who receive the average need-based grant at the top five Best Value Schools among National Universities. The average discount data are correct as of Sept. 17, 2013. We ordered the schools based on their ranking among Best Value Schools, but the graphic only displays one of the three data points taken into consideration for the ranking: average discount.
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