Public and West Coast Colleges Are Becoming a Better Value

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The new edition of Forbes' top colleges list shows that Ivy League schools are still the cream of the crop, but are far from the only great options.

Forbes has released its list of top colleges for 2013 and for the first time, the top two aren’t in the Ivy League.

Every Ivy League school makes the top 20, of course, and only nine public colleges and universities appear among the top 50 schools. This year Stanford University and Pomona College received the highest honors. Both are in California, as is the top state university — No. 22, University of California, Berkeley.

“All have high retention rates (98 percent, 99 percent and 96 percent, respectively) and their graduates’ average starting salaries ($58,200, $49,200 and $52,000, respectively) outpace the $44,259 median income for 2012 college grads,” Forbes says.

Forbes has published a top schools list for six years, and notes that public schools have been making strides recently. “Overall, public schools are doing better, with 23 in the top 100 and 51 in the top 250,” Forbes says. In 2011, there were only five public schools in the top 50.

There are a lot of best-college lists, but what’s interesting about the one from Forbes is the methodology:

The Forbes list of 650 schools distinguishes itself from competitors by our belief in “output” over “input.” We’re not all that interested in what gets a student into college, like our peers who focus heavily on selectivity metrics such as high school class rank, SAT scores and the like. Our sights are set directly on ROI: What are students getting out of college?

These are the factors it uses in ranking schools:

  • Post-graduation success — 37.5 percent.
  • Student satisfaction — 22.5 percent.
  • Student debt — 17.5 percent.
  • Graduation rate — 11.25 percent.
  • Nationally competitive awards — 11.25 percent.

While it’s nice to see a list tightly focused on value, with the exception of tuition-free military colleges these schools aren’t exactly cheap. Check out the video below for some advice on financing a college education.

The list also highlights an increase in online degree offerings from established schools, including Penn State, Arizona State, and the University of Massachusetts.

We recently covered lots of free online courses from top schools in “How to Go Back to School.”

Stacy Johnson

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