The 25 Colleges With the Best Return on Your Money in 2019

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We all hope to get the best bang for our college buck. After all, there’s a good chance student debt will be involved.

But how do you know that you’re getting a good value?

One indicator is LendEDU’s recently released 2019 College Risk-Reward Indicator Study, which details what you can expect in terms of return on your educational investment at hundreds of schools in the United States.

The indicator is a figure based on how much debt students who attend a given college have upon graduation and how much money those students earn early in their careers.

“The biggest key when it comes to being financially prosperous as a young college graduate is having a low student loan debt balance and a high early career pay,” LendEDU explains. “Contrarily, high levels of debt and low pay is a recipe for financial hardship.”

If you want to know where to go to get the best value for your educational spending, the following are the top 25 schools.

25. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College rowers
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 10.3

Located in Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin College is a private liberal arts institution that offers an intimate and rigorous course of study. It was founded in 1794, making it older than the state of Maine.

The school boasts that its student aid packages contain no loans, as Bowdoin replaced loans with grants in 2008. Additionally, a need-blind admission policy promises means that “your decision to attend Bowdoin will never be influenced by whether or not your family can afford it,” according to the college.

24. Davidson College

College students in a classroom
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 10.35

Davidson College is located in Davidson, North Carolina. It’s a private liberal arts school that prides itself on being highly selective and offering a world-class education.

Davidson also prides itself on affordability. The Davidson Trust program “meets 100 percent of calculated financial need of accepted students through a combination of grants and campus employment,” according to the college.

23. Rice University

Rice University
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 10.42

Rice University is a private research institution located in the heart of Houston. The university’s motto is “unconventional wisdom,” and it boasts an undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of 6 to 1 and a median class size of 14.

Similarly to Davidson College, Rice University also boasts that it meets 100% of the demonstrated financial needs of the students accepted to the school.

22. University of the Incarnate Word

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 10.72

Founded by three Catholic women in 1881, University of the Incarnate World is a private Catholic institution located near downtown San Antonio with the stated aim of working to advance the cause for human dignity and societal change across professions, cultures, borders and all faiths. Five of the 11 schools that make up UIW focus on health professions.

21. University of California, Berkeley

University of California Berkeley
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 10.72

UC Berkeley is a public research university and the flagship institution of the University of California system. It’s considered one of the best public institutions around and offers a number of opportunities for students to learn and grow.

Just don’t expect it to be easy to get admitted to Berkeley. Academic review site cites it as one of the nation’s toughest colleges to get into, as we detail in “The 35 Hardest U.S. Colleges to Get Into in 2019.”

20. Moody Bible Institute

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 10.74

Founded as the Chicago Evangelization Society in 1886, Moody Bible Institute is a private and fully accredited Bible college. Its main campus is located in Chicago.

19. Bethel College (North Newton)

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 10.75

Located in North Newton, Kansas, Bethel College is a private liberal arts college. It’s the first Mennonite college founded in North America and focuses on offering a progressive Christian education.

18. University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 11.18

This private Ivy League university is located in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood. UPenn has a need-blind admission policy, promising that “no student will be denied admission based on ability to pay.”

Like UC Berkeley, it’s one of the hardest U.S. universities to get into — but it might be worth trying. A 2017 analysis by career site Zippia found that the University of Pennsylvania produces some of the highest-paid graduates — with average earnings of more than $100,000.

17. Pomona College

Pomona College
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 11.21

Pomona College is a private liberal arts institution located in Claremont, California. The college prides itself on having small, diverse classes — with a student-to-faculty ratio of 8 to 1 — and on being located within an hour of Los Angeles as well as the mountains, desert and beaches.

16. Amherst College

Amherst College
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 11.26

Located in Amherst, Massachusetts, Amherst College is a private liberal arts institution founded in 1821 that prides itself on an open curriculum. This means the school has no core curriculum requirements, allowing students to choose what courses they want to take.

“Our open curriculum ensures that each classroom is filled with inquisitive, fully engaged students committed to the topic at hand,” the college explains on its website.

LendEDU is hardly the first to recognize Amherst for the return on investment that it offers to students. In the past year or two, the Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report have also ranked the college as one of the best in the country based on value.

15. Williams College

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 11.27

This private liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts, boasts a 7-to-1 student-faculty ratio and an engaged student body, with 96 percent of students involved in at least one extracurricular activity. Williams College started phasing out fraternities in 1962, however.

Like Amherst College, Williams has been recognized by publications like the Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s best colleges for the return on students’ investment.

14. Swarthmore College

College students
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 11.69

Located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, this private liberal arts college was founded in 1864 by the Religious Society of Friends, aka Quakers. In addition to a student-faculty ratio of 8 to 1, one of the distinguishing features of Swarthmore College is that its campus is an arboretum, with world-renowned gardens and wild forest areas; altogether the 425-acre Scott Arboretum contains more than 4,000 varieties of plants.

Swarthmore also is among the hardest colleges in the U.S. to get into.

13. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt Unversity
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 12.67

Vanderbilt University is a private research university located in urban Nashville, Tennessee, that offers a full complement of courses and degrees. It’s one of the hardest colleges in the U.S. to get into.

Vanderbilt’s recent accolades include being ranked as having the best graduate school programs in the nation for audiology, speech-language pathology and nursing-midwifery by U.S. News & World Report. It also has the nation’s best graduate program for educational administration and supervision, according to U.S. News.

12. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 13

Florida A&M University is a historically black institution located in the Sunshine State’s capital, Tallahassee. A public university, FAMU prides itself on affordability. For a full-time in-state student who lives on campus, the cost to attend FAMU for the 2018-2019 academic year is an estimated $22,000 to $23,000, according to the university, which provides financial assistance in meeting that cost through grants, scholarships, student employment and loans.

11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 14.38

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the most respected institutions of learning in the country, with a student-faculty ratio of just 3 to 1. Indeed, anyone who manages to get into this private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can pretty much write their own ticket.

10. California Institute of Technology

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 14.62

The California Institute of Technology is known as one of the best universities in the world, with strengths in science and engineering. It is a private research university located in Pasadena. Like MIT, Caltech is among the hardest colleges in the U.S. to get into, according to a ranking by academic review site

9. Central Connecticut State University

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 14.68

Located in New Britain, Connecticut, this is the oldest publicly funded university in the state as well as the largest university in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system. As a comprehensive university, CCSU prides itself on its array of degree programs.

8. Brigham Young University

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 14.72

Based in Provo, Utah, Brigham Young University is a private institution founded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With more than 30,000 undergraduate students, BYU boasts the largest undergraduate enrollment of any private university in the U.S.

While you don’t have to be a member of the LDS church (also known as Mormons) to attend BYU, members do get a break on tuition. The cost to attend BYU as an undergraduate during the 2018-2019 academic year is $2,810 per semester for church members, compared with $5,620 per semester for non-members.

7. Haverford College

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 16.26

This undergraduate-only institution is located in Haverford, Pennsylvania. It’s a private liberal arts school, founded in 1833 by Quakers, that boasts small class sizes and a serene location just outside the bustle of Philadelphia. Haverford College has just 1,353 students, all of whom all expected to be involved in research, and a student-faculty ratio of just 3 to 1.

6. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 20.04

This private college located in New York City focuses on art, architecture and engineering. Cooper Union was founded in 1859 by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper, who made his school free to the working classes and open to both men and women. Today, all undergraduate students admitted to Cooper Union receive a half-tuition scholarship, which is valued at $22,275 for the 2018-2019 academic year.

5. Stanford University

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 21.03

Stanford University, located in Stanford, California, is one of the most well-known and well-respected universities in the world. The private research university boasts that nearly 70% of its undergraduate students receive financial aid, and the cost of tuition is generally covered for families with incomes of less than $125,000.

4. Berea College

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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 21.21

You can attend Berea College, which is a private liberal arts work college in Berea, Kentucky, for free. In keeping with Berea’s “no-tuition promise,” no student pays for tuition. The college awards Tuition Promise Scholarships worth about $100,000 over four years, and its education includes both academic and work components. Berea also has the distinction of being the first in the South to be coeducational and racially integrated.

3. Harvard University

Harvard University
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 24.02

Who hasn’t heard of Harvard? The private Ivy League university, based in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, is world-famous for its undergraduate programs but might be even more famous for its law school and some of its post-graduate opportunities. Despite its exclusive Ivy League pedigree, Harvard isn’t out of reach for anyone who can gain admission. The university says it has a need-blind admissions policy, with financial aid based entirely on need, not merit.

2. Yale University

Yale University
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 32.71

As you probably know, this private research university in New Haven, Connecticut, also is a member of the Ivy League. You may not realize, though, that the number of students in graduate and professional programs at Yale University outnumber undergraduate students. Financial aid at Yale is also need-based.

1. Princeton University

Princeton University
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College Risk-Reward Indicator: 47.49

Looking for a good value in education, you might be surprised to discover that this private Ivy League school in New Jersey is No. 1 on the list. In 2001, Princeton University changed its financial aid policy, replacing loans with grants that do not need to be repaid. According to the university, 60% of undergraduate students receive financial aid, and the average annual grant for the class of 2021 is a whopping $55,200.

What’s your take on this ranking? What college do you consider the best for the return on your money? Share your thoughts by commenting below or on the Money Talks News Facebook page.

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