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Slide Show | October 2012

10 Best Values in Private Universities 2012-13

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These top ten universities represent not only some of the most renowned institutions in the world but also our definition of value, thanks to their high-quality academics and generous financial aid.

All offer need-based aid that brings the price of admission, on average, to less than half the sticker price; four of the schools also award generous merit aid. Unlike liberal arts colleges, which focus on undergraduate education, these and other universities offer a range of degrees, such as MAs, PHDs and JDs.


10 Best Values in Private Universities 2012-13

10. University of Pennsylvania

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Location: Philadelphia, Pa.

Undergraduate enrollment: 9,779

Total annual cost: $57,316

Average annual need-based aid: $34,655

Average net cost: $22,661

The first U.S. institution of higher education to become a university, U-Penn takes pride in having a diverse and international student body. Almost half of its accepted students are of color, and more than 12% of the freshman class is from outside the U.S. Strong academics, including a student-faculty ratio of six-to-one, and a hefty need-based financial aid package make this Ivy League institution a model of high-quality, affordable education.

10. University of Pennsylvania

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Location: Cambridge, Mass.

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,384

Total annual cost: $55,238

Average annual need-based aid: $35,289

Average net cost: $19,949

The training ground for scientific superstars (25 alums have won the Nobel Prize), MIT is one of the world's premier tech universities. As you would expect, 92% of incoming freshmen scored 700 or higher on the math SAT, and the admit rate is a competitive 10%. About two-thirds of MIT's students receive need-based aid, reducing the price to an average of $19,949.

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

8. Stanford University

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Location: Stanford, Cal.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,988

Total annual cost: $56,008

Average annual need-based aid: $39,105

Average net cost: $16,903

One of the most competitive universities in the country (along with Harvard and Columbia), Stanford is the only one of the three on the West Coast. Its low student-faculty ratio (five-to-one) ensures that students get personalized instruction from its faculty, and 98% of freshmen return for sophomore year. Stanford's generous annual need-based financial aid package brings the annual cost after aid to $16,903.

8. Stanford University

7. Columbia University

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Location: New York, N.Y.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,027

Total annual cost: $60,298

Average annual need-based aid: $39,075

Average net cost: $21,223

This Ivy League institution may be the most expensive school on our list, but its need-based financial aid -- close to $40,000, on average -- makes it affordable to students who qualify. Columbia has an almost-perfect freshman retention rate (99%), reflecting its strong academic support and, just maybe, its desirable location in Manhattan's Morningside Heights. The admission rate - 7% -- is second only to Harvard's and tied with that of Stanford University.

7. Columbia University

6. Harvard University

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Location: Cambridge, Mass.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,676

Total annual cost: $55,496

Average annual need-based aid: $42,229

Average net cost: $13,267

Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the country. Today, it's the most competitive on our list, with an admission rate of 6% and a yield -- the number of students who attend out of those admitted -- of 76%, besting that of its Ivy League peers. Harvard's financial aid (totaling more than $172 million) is awarded to more than 60% of its students, ensuring that the best and the brightest can attend Harvard regardless of income.

6. Harvard University

5. California Institute of Technology

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Location: Pasadena, Cal.

Undergraduate enrollment: 978

Total annual cost: $52,995

Average annual need-based aid: $32,358

Average net cost: $20,637

This prestigious tech school, located in the northern suburbs of Los Angeles, makes a virtue of small numbers: small student body, small classes (its student-faculty ratio is an exceptional three-to one) and low student debt, thanks to its no-loan financial aid policy and generous student aid. But Caltech is big on academic excellence: 98% of incoming freshmen scored 700 or higher on their math SAT. Its faculty and alumni include more than 30 Nobel laureates.

5. California Institute of Technology

4. Duke University

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Location: Durham, N.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,549

Total annual cost: $56,056

Average annual need-based aid: $36,877

Average net cost: $19,179

Located on nearly 9,000 acres in Durham, N.C. (hub of the famed Research Triangle Park), Duke is one of the country's preeminent private research universities and one of the most affordable, thanks to generous financial aid (including merit scholarships averaging $24,323, awarded to a small slice of the student body). The seven-to-one student-faculty ratio means students have plenty of opportunity to interact with professors, who are also top researchers in their fields.

4. Duke University

3. Princeton University

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Location: Princeton, N.J.

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,249

Total annual cost: $54,425

Average annual need-based aid: $35,665

Average net cost: $18,760

This 266-year-old institution, the fourth-oldest in the country, is also one of the most competitive, with an admission rate of 8%. Its academic credentials include a six-to-one student-faculty ratio, a highly accomplished faculty and a brainiac student body (81% of incoming freshmen score 700 or more on their math SAT, and 76% score 700 or more on the verbal portion). Thanks to Princeton's no-loan financial-aid policy -- the first in the country -- students at this Ivy League school graduate with little or no debt; the average debt at graduation ($5,330) is the lowest on our list of private universities.

3. Princeton University

2. Rice University

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Location: Houston, Tex.

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,755

Total annual cost: $50,692

Average annual need-based aid: $31,252

Average net cost: $19,440

Rice's sticker price is the lowest among our top 20 universities, and its need-based aid reduces the cost for students who qualify to an average of less than $20,000. Unlike many top-tier institutions, Rice also awards merit aid to a significant percentage of students, at an average of almost $16,000. Students here benefit from Rice's six-to-one student-faculty ratio, among the lowest for both liberal arts colleges and for private universities; 96% of full-time faculty hold a PhD or the equivalent.

2. Rice University

1. Yale University

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Location: New Haven, Conn.

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,349

Total annual cost: $52,700

Average annual need-based aid: $38,914

Average net cost: $13,786

Yale takes top honors in our list, thanks to its outstanding quality and lavish need-based financial aid. Yale's 8% admission rate (the percentage of students accepted out of those who apply) is one of the most competitive in the country. Its $19.3 billion endowment allows the school to meet 100% of need for all students who qualify, in average amounts approaching $40,000. The historic campus includes buildings in styles ranging from Victorian Gothic to Moorish Revival. Recent additions include an arts complex, several laboratories, an athletic center and a student residence. More capital projects are scheduled in the decade ahead.

1. Yale University

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