The Best Value Colleges Rankings

Many of our best colleges are also among the most generous in financial aid.

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The current recession has meant that more prospective students are looking for ways to make going to college more affordable. Assessing the educational quality of colleges relative to their costs is a difficult task, especially given the complexities of financial aid. With the cost of college increasing faster than most family incomes, value has become a key factor for students in selecting where to go to school.

Which colleges are best buys? Which colleges are the ones where you get the highest quality education for the lowest price? Which top-ranked colleges provide the best need-based financial aid packages in order to make them more affordable? To answer these questions, U.S. News has produced lists of the best college values in 10 academic categories. Because we believe that the best values are found among schools that are above average educationally, only colleges in the top half of their America's Best Colleges 2010 edition rankings category were considered for this evaluation.

Schools that are free or nearly free, like Berea College (Kentucky), Cooper Union (New York), the U.S. Air Force Academy (Colorado), the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (Connecticut), the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (New York), the U.S. Military Academy (New York), the U.S. Naval Academy (Maryland), and Webb Institute (New York), have been excluded from consideration. These schools, which are highly regarded, are obviously a best value for students interested in pursuing the kind of education and career opportunities each one offers.

The Best Values rankings methodology is based on three variables.

1. Ratio of quality to price: A school's overall score in the America's Best Colleges 2010 edition rankings was divided by the 2008-2009 academic year net cost to a student receiving the average need-based scholarship or grant.

2. Percentage of all undergraduates receiving need-based scholarships or grants during the 2008-2009 academic year.

3. Average discount: the percentage of a school's 2008-2009 total costs (tuition, room and board, fees, books, and other expenses) covered by the average need-based scholarship or grant to undergraduates for the 2008-2009 academic year.

The lists of schools that offer the best values appear on the free section of our website. You can go to these links to see the schools in the America's Best Colleges 2010 edition rankings.

  • National Universities
  • Liberal Arts Colleges
  • Master's Universities-North
  • Master's Universities-South
  • Master's Universities-Midwest
  • Master's Universities-West
  • Baccalaureate Universities-North
  • Baccalaureate Universities-South
  • Baccalaureate Universities-Midwest
  • Baccalaureate Universities-West