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Consumers Digest Names Top 100 College Values

DEERFIELD, IL – One 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 (CD). 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 ranked No. 1. Among 25 private institutions, Princeton University took top honors. Among 25 private liberal-arts schools, Amherst College held the first slot.

The rankings, published in CD’s June issue, were derived from a formula that blends 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 (four- and six-year graduation rates, 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, "so we applied well-developed research 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 who institutions accepted. For public schools, CD considered only nonresident tuition. Military institutions and extremely specialized colleges were excluded. Financial aid wasn't considered because of inconsistencies in the way colleges distribute aid.

The average annual cost of attendance at CD's top schools was $30,655 at public colleges/universities and $56,578 at private colleges/universities. (Indicative of the unrelenting climb in the cost of higher education, these amounts represent 16.35 percent and 19.98 percent jumps, respectively, compared with the average annual cost of attendance at Consumers Digest top values four years ago.)

"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 Price of Admission: How to Make Higher Education More Affordable," and in his Editor's Note that introduces the report, Editor Rich Dzierwa pointed out that many colleges and universities refrain from any attempt to cut costs for fear that a lower cost of attendance will be seen by parents and students as a knock on the school's quality. Adding fuel to the fire, some of the entities that rank schools actually reward institutions for spending more revenue per student.

Top 5 Values in Public Colleges and Universities

  1. Truman State University (Kirksville, MO)
  2. California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo, CA)
  3. University of Minnesota-Morris (Morris, MN)
  4. University of Tennessee-Knoxville (Knoxville, TN)
  5. Stony Brook University (Stony Brook, NY)

Top 5 Values in Private Colleges and Universities

  1. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  2. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  3. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)
  4. University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)
  5. Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)

Top 5 Values in Private Liberal Arts Schools

  1. Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
  2. Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
  3. Pomona College (Claremont, CA)
  4. Williams College (Williamstown, MA)
  5. Haverford College (Haverford, PA

About Consumers Digest
Published for 54 years, Consumers Digest is designed to inform and educate readers, so they can save time, save money and 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. For more information, visit