Best Colleges for 2018 Include Several ‘Value’ Schools

U.S. News & World Report's latest annual ranking of the best colleges in the nation includes new data on alumni salaries.

Best Colleges for 2018 Include Several ‘Value’ Schools Photo by F8 studio / Shutterstock.com

U.S. News & World Report has released its 2018 Best Colleges rankings — with a new twist: The publication now provides postgraduate salary information from PayScale.

The U.S. News profile pages for these schools list the median starting salary for alumni who have zero to five years of postgraduate work experience and whose highest degree is a bachelor’s.

The U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy tied for first, CBS News reports, with this type of graduate earning a median salary of $80,300. The California Institute of Technology comes in second with $78,400.

Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, explains this new feature:

“[F]amilies and students have increasingly asked for more data on salary and potential earnings. We wanted to make this information easily available to them, but stress that it should be considered as one factor among many when deciding where to attend college.”

Alumni salaries were not used to determine school rankings.

Academic excellence remains the focus of the rankings. In particular, student outcomes such as graduation and freshman retention rates are weighted most heavily.

U.S. News editor and chief content officer Brian Kelly describes graduation and retention rates as “important indicators of how well a school supports its students both academically and financially.” He continues:

“Colleges that saddle students with debt but do little to support them through graduation are contributing to a vicious cycle — without that valuable degree, students will have a difficult time landing well-paying jobs and repaying their loans, which puts them in a precarious financial situation early on in their careers.”

Among all ranked schools in the National Universities category, the average six-year graduation rate is 71.7 percent and the average freshman retention rate is 87.2 percent.

By comparison, among the top 10 schools in that category, the average six-year graduate rate is 96 percent and the average freshman retention rate is 98.3 percent.

The top three schools in the main categories this year include the following:

National universities:

  • Princeton University, New Jersey
  • Harvard University, Massachusetts
  • University of Chicago (tie for third)
  • Yale University, Connecticut (tie for third)

National liberal arts colleges:

  • Williams College, Massachusetts
  • Amherst College, Massachusetts
  • Bowdoin College, Maine (tie for third)
  • Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania (tie for third)
  • Wellesley College, Massachusetts (tie for third)

Public national universities:

  • University of California-Berkeley (tie for first)
  • University of California-Los Angeles (tie for first)
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Public national liberal arts colleges:

  • U.S. Military Academy, New York
  • U.S. Naval Academy, Maryland
  • U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado

Before you write off the nation’s top schools as out of your price range, you might want to check out the Best Value category. Princeton, Harvard and Yale ranked highest here due to generous grants.

For more ways to save on college, check out “5 Ways to Dramatically Reduce the Cost of College.”

What’s your take on these schools? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

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