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Harvard, Yale Top List of Best College Value

By Jim Sloan
Published on April 23, 2013.

Harvard. Yale. Princeton. Stanford.

All great schools, right? No question.

But are they also great bargains? Apparently so.

High Costs and Generous Support

The Ivy League institutions and their West Coast counterpart are renowned for their high academic standards, tough admissions policies, and challenging course work. They also are known for their high price tags. Tuition, room and board at Harvard, for instance, is more than $57,000 a year.

Yale, too, is right up there. at $56,300 for tuition, room and board and related expenses. And the costs at many colleges are climbing -- the cost of attending Yale, for instance, is going up nearly 5 percent.

But according to the institutions and to U.S. News & World Report, the actual costs for Harvard and Yale students are actually much lower, making them the best-value colleges among national universities. At the No. 1 bargain, Harvard, for instance, 60 percent of its students receive need-based grants, bringing annual costs for those students down to $14,495, U.S. News & World Report reports. At No. 2 Yale, 56 percent receive need-based grants, bringing their average costs down to $15,676.

A Sound Investment

What makes Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and the other top 10 schools -- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, Dartmouth, California Institute of Technology, Duke and Rice -- best-value colleges is that they combine a high level of financial support with above-average academics in a way that makes them a college value and a sounder investment than most other schools.

According to Harvard, students on scholarship pay an average of $11,500 a year to attend the Cambridge, Mass., school. The average grant going to the 60 percent of students who get aid is $40,000, a real college value. Since 2007, Harvard's financial aid investment has grown by more than 70 percent, from $96.6 million to $166 million a year.

Liberal arts colleges that provide college value and are considered best-value colleges include Amherst College in Massachusetts, where nearly 60 percent of the students get aid and pay an average of $15,557 to attend school, Williams College, where more than half get aid and pay a little more than $18,000 a year, and Vassar College, where two-thirds are on scholarships and pay less than $20,000 to attend school.

The Best Regional Bargains

There are also best-value colleges to be found among regional universities, including Trinity, Seattle Pacific and Gonzaga, and regional colleges, among whom Texas Lutheran University, Carroll College in Montana, and Master's College and Seminary in Santa Clarita, Calif., lead the way in the West.

In addition to U.S. News & World Report, the Princeton Review and Forbes magazine also do their own rankings of the best-value colleges. And though they use different criteria than U.S. News & World Report, several schools show up on the same lists. Williams College in Williamstown, Mass, for instance, is considered the Princeton Review's best-value private institution. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was considered the best bargain for public institutions.

To make either list, a college has to be considered above average academically, and the final bill for tuition and room and board has to be considerably less than other schools after financial aid is taken into account.

Sources:

Yale Daily News, "Cost of attending Yale up 4.9%," Cross Campus, Andrew Giambrone, March 15, 2012, http://yaledailynews.com/crosscampus/2012/03/15/cost-of-attending-yale-up-4-9-percent/
COLLEGEdata, "College Profile: Harvard College," 2013, http://www.collegedata.com/cs/data/college/college_pg03_tmpl.jhtml?schoolId=444
U.S. News & World Report, "Best Value Schools: National Universities," 2013, http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/best-value
USA Today, "'Best value' colleges: Some have high price tags," Mary Beth Marklein, February 7, 2012, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2012-02-07/princeton-review-best-value-colleges-2012/52991578/1
Forbes, "Best Value Colleges 2012," August 1, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/specialfeatures/2012/08/01/best-value-colleges-2012/

About the Author

Jim Sloan is a freelance writer in Reno, Nev.

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