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College Rankings

This Top Private College Gives Students Access to Four Schools for the Price of One

Haverford College offers students more bang for their buck with classes at Swarthmore College, Bryn Mawr College and more.

Haverford College Jackbauerinvc via Wikimedia Commons

It’s lunchtime at Haverford College, and backpacks are strewn inside the entrance to the dining center, a cozy spot that feels more like a ski lodge than a cafeteria. In the library, laptops sit unattended while their owners dash out for a bite to eat. Every bit of life on campus, from the unattended belongings to the un-proctored, self-scheduled final exams, reflects the school’s student-run honor code and Quaker tradition, both of which emphasize trust and mutual respect.

See Also: Best College Values, 2015

This small liberal arts college (number four on our liberal arts rankings and number eight on our combined list), located on a 216-acre campus just eight miles west of Philadelphia, attracts stellar students. More than half of incoming freshmen score 700 or higher on the verbal or math portion of the SAT. A nine-to-one student-faculty ratio means students get plenty of face time with their professors. And an impressive 91% of students (the second-highest on our combined list) graduate in four years—with every student completing a senior thesis. Many students have their work published before graduation.

Perhaps the nearly $63,000 sticker price per year of a Haverford education gives you, well, sticker shock. But generous need-based aid awards bring the average cost of attendance to about $22,000 a year. And the average debt of students who borrow (only about 30%) is $14,110, compared with the national average of $27,300.

That’s owing, in large part, to the school’s loan policy: Loans aren’t included in the financial aid packages of students whose families earn less than $60,000 per year (see Best College Values, 2015: No-Loan Policies Pay Off). And for families who do earn more, the loan portion of the school’s financial aid awards tops out at $3,000 per year (some families borrow more on their own). “We don’t want debt to be an obstacle to the career aspirations that our graduates have,” says president Dan Weiss. For indebted graduates, including those who select less-lucrative careers, Haverford recently announced a debt-relief program that will provide funds for up to three years to those struggling with repayment.

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Because Haverford is one of four schools in the Quaker Consortium, students may take classes at nearby Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawr College (numbers 1 and 37 on our liberal arts list, respectively). For classes that aren’t offered by those three schools, students can take a 20-minute train ride to Philadelphia for classes at the University of Pennsylvania (number 11 on our list of private colleges). “It’s just mind-blowing to have access to an Ivy League school like Penn,” says Haverford senior Ming-Fui Chai.

With nearly 10,000 undergraduates, the University of Pennsylvania boasts an impressive six-to-one student-faculty ratio and an 88% four-year graduation rate. The highly selective university admits only 12% of applicants—but for those who get in, Penn offers generous need-based aid (the average award is more than $38,000) and doesn’t include loans as part of a student’s financial aid package.

The school’s urban campus is part of the city of Philadelphia but doesn’t lose its collegiate vibe as students hustle down tree-lined Locust Walk on the way to class, careful to avoid walking across the compass rose on the sidewalk (tradition has it that doing so leads to poor exam grades). For the past six years, Penn has kept tuition hikes below 4% while funding campus improvements—including the 24-acre Penn Park, a public green space bordered by the Schuylkill River and leading to downtown Philadelphia.