Consumers Digest Names Top 100 College Values

Consumers Digest Names Top 100 College ValuesOne hundred colleges and universities out of some 2,000 U.S. schools that offer four-year degrees have been ranked as the top values by Consumers Digest. The rankings are based on attributes that validate or define the institutions’ academic prowess factored against annual cost of tuition, fees and room and board. Among 50 public institutions cited, Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo., ranked No. 1. Among 25 private institutions, Yale University took top honors. Among 25 private liberal-arts schools, Grove City College, Grove City, Pa., held the first slot.

The rankings, published in CD’s June 2011 issue, were derived from a formula that blended the academic excellence of first-time freshmen at a school (standardized test scores, high-school rank, grade-point average) with the institution’s educational quality (4- and 6-year graduation rate, student-retention rate, percentage of faculty holding a Ph.D.). That “value index” score was factored with the cost of attending each school to determine which schools offered the most academic value per dollar.

“Expert opinions and solid recommendations are two of our strengths,” says Randy Weber, publisher of Consumers Digest. “And we applied well-developed standards and thorough analysis to this examination of our country’s higher-learning institutions to help parents and students find schools that will meet families’ performance and financial requirements.”

Consumers Digest first whittled down the list of schools based on a minimum level of academic performance by students that institutions accepted. For public schools, CD considered only nonresident tuition figures. Military institutions and extremely specialized colleges were excluded. Financial aid wasn’t factored in because of inconsistencies in the way colleges distribute aid.

The average annual cost of attendance at CD’s top schools was $47,156 at private colleges/universities and $26,344 at public colleges/universities.

“Our analysis is designed to help families make an informed decision that puts their hard-earned money to the best use,” Weber says.

CD’s Top 100 College Values accompanied an article titled “The Hidden Costs of Higher Education.” The article explains how universities are countering greatly reduced funding from government by tacking on hidden mandatory fees for things that were once included as part of tuition. In this way, they can announce that their tuition rises only at the rate of inflation—even while fees at 4-year public universities have jumped more than 30 percent, even after being adjusted for inflation.

Editor Rich Dzierwa points out that his publication decided to exclude schools’ acceptance rates from the data used to rate performance. “Acceptance rate, which also is known as selectivity, can be dramatically manipulated by colleges and universities,” Dzierwa says.

Top 5 Values in Public Colleges and Universities  
1) Truman State University (Kirksville, Mo.)  
2) University of Minnesota-Morris (Morris, Minn.)  
3) SUNY at Geneseo (Geneseo, N.Y.)  
4) Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.)  
5) California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo, Calif.)  
Top 5 Values in Private Colleges and Universities  
1) Yale University (New Haven, Conn.)  
2) Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.)  
3) Rice University (Houston)  
4) Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)  
5) University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)  
Top 5 Values in Private Liberal-Arts Schools  
1) Grove City College (Grove City, Pa.)  
2) Williams College (Williamstown, Mass.)  
3) Pomona College (Claremont, Calif.)  
4) Amherst College (Amherst, Mass.)  
5) Claremont McKenna College (Claremont, Calif.)  

Consumers Digest, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is designed to inform and educate readers so they can buy with confidence. It is committed to providing practical advice, factual evaluations and specific recommendations that lead consumers to exceptional values in today’s complex marketplace.