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New College Rankings Help Families Measure What Really Matters in Higher Education

Money magazine has released a new college ranking system that tries to measure the value of a college education based on three groups of factors: educational quality, affordability and outcomes. The new rankings are designed to help families find “the right school at the right price,” according to Money magazine.

The list ranks 665 of the nation’s more than 1,500 public and private 4-year colleges and universities, eliminating schools that had below-average graduation rates or failed other minimum quality standards, according to the magazine’s editors. Once the schools were selected, each one was ranked to determine which provided the best value: a high-quality education at a low net price.

Mark Kantrowitz praises the Money ranking methodology, saying that their approach is similar to the one he would have taken, adjusting outcome measures and adjusting added value based on differences in student demographics.

The Money magazine rankings focus more on financial factors than other popular rankings, placing greater emphasis on the average total net price, debt at graduation, student loan default rates and earnings after graduation. Other college rankings have a tendency to overemphasize a college’s selectivity.

Money’s Top Ten Best Colleges are:

  1. Babson College
  2. Webb Institute
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. Princeton University
  5. Stanford University
  6. Harvard University
  7. Harvey Mudd College
  8. Cooper Union
  9. Brigham Young University
  10. California Institute of Technology

Some of the top-ranked colleges in this list are familiar, albeit in a different order than the U.S. News & World Report rankings, and some are refreshingly different. Webb Institute takes the number two spot in part because of college affordability. Princeton University also gets an edge over Harvard University because of greater college affordability.

Among other highlights from the rankings, Money magazine shows that “higher-cost colleges do not graduate a higher percentage of students than similar but lower-priced colleges, nor do their alumni earn more,” according to a news release. Additionally, the rankings indicate that “no matter which college (a student) attends, majoring in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) is likely to result in a bigger salary down the road.”