Which Colleges Offer the Best Value 2015

By the Princeton Review, Special for  USDR.

The Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com) today released a new book and online resource that addresses two of the major concerns of college applicants and their parents: paying for college and graduating with a good job and  paycheck.

Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What It Takes to Get In – 2015 Edition  (Penguin Random House / Princeton Review, $21.99, February 3) is a one-of-a-kind guide to the nation’s academically best and most affordable colleges that also have excellent records of alumni  employment.

The Princeton Review – widely known for its test prep and academic tutoring services as well as its dozens of categories of college rankings  – developed a unique “Return-on-Education” (ROE) rating to winnow its list of colleges for this book.  ROE measures 40 weighted data points. Everything from academics, cost, financial aid, and student debt to statistics on graduation rates, alumni salaries and job  satisfaction.

“We strongly recommend these schools. They deliver outstanding academics while working to be affordable to students with need – offering generous financial aid or charging a relatively low cost of attendance (or both),” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s Senior VP/Publisher and lead author of Colleges That Pay Back.  “Plus their students graduate with great career  prospects.”

The Company based its ROE rating on data collected in 2013-14 from its surveys of administrators and students at 650 colleges, plus surveys conducted by PayScale.com through April 2014 of alumni of the same  schools.

Profiles of the 200 colleges that made the book – plus its primary ranking list of 50 schools that received the highest ROE rating and six additional new ranking lists – are available at  www.princetonreview.com/colleges-pay-you-back.

On the list, “Top 50 Colleges That Pay You Back,” the top five colleges  are:

1. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (New York,  NY)
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge,  MA)
3. Harvey Mudd College (Claremont,  CA)
4. Stanford University (Palo Alto,  CA)
5. Princeton University (Princeton,  NJ)

The six additional ranking lists each name the top 25 colleges in special categories.  The categories and #1 schools on those lists  are:

  • “Best Financial Aid” – Vassar College (Poughkeepsie,  NY)
  • “Best Career Placement”– Harvey Mudd College (Claremont,  CA)
  • “Best Schools for Internships” – The George Washington University (Washington,  DC)
  • “Best Alumni Network” – Clemson University (Clemson,  SC)
  • “Best Schools for Making an Impact” – Wesleyan University (Middletown,  CT)
  • “Top Colleges That Pay You Back (Even If You’re Not Eligible for Need-Based Financial Aid)” – Harvey Mudd College (Claremont,  CA)

The 2015 “Colleges That Pay You Back” project is an expansion of The Princeton Review’s annual “Best Value Colleges” list and book first published in 2004. Franek noted that the Company expanded the project in response to concerns it heard from college applicants and their parents on its 2014 “College Hopes & Worries Survey” (www.princetonreview.com/college-hopes-worries). “While 100% of our nearly 15,000 respondents viewed college as ‘worth it,’ worries about college costs and job prospects were deep. Eighty-nine percent said financial aid would be ‘very necessary’ to afford college, and 42% said their final school choice would be the college ‘best for the student’s career  interests.'”

The schools in Colleges That Pay You Back offer excellent choices for such  applicants.

At the 77 public colleges in the book  the:

  • average cost of attendance (sticker price minus average grant) for in-state students receiving need-based aid is  $11,900.

Among the 200 colleges (publics and privates) in the book  the:

  • average grant to freshmen with need is  $22,600,
  • median starting salary of graduates is $48,700: the median mid-career salary is  $91,300,
  • percent of alumni reporting “high satisfaction” in their jobs and careers is  71%.

Colleges That Pay You Back also has a list of “Great Schools for the 38 Highest Paying Majors” and profiles of nine schools that are tuition-free. It is one of 150 Princeton Review books in a line published by Penguin Random House.  Others include The Best 379 Colleges, known for its college rankings in 62 categories, and Paying For College Without Going Broke, an annually updated financial aid guide with strategies to maximize aid  eligibility.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.