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10 Best Values in Public Colleges, 2017

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Families looking to trim college costs often steer their students toward public colleges in their home state rather than to public colleges across state lines or private institutions. Staying in-state makes sense for families who expect little or no financial aid. In 2016-17 the average sticker price for in-state students attending four-year public colleges was $20,090 (including tuition, fees and room and board), according to the College Board. That’s less than half the total average sticker price for private schools ($45,370 for 2016-17) and about 40% less than the average sticker price ($35,370) for out-of-state students attending public colleges.

But price isn’t the only consideration when choosing a college. The schools that earn top honors on our list of public colleges deliver on our definition of value: a high-quality education at an affordable price. We look at measures of academic quality, including a competitive admission rate, a low student-faculty ratio and a high four-year graduation rate. On the financial side of the equation, we look for schools with reasonable sticker prices (based on the cost of attendance for in-state students), generous financial aid for students who qualify, and low average debt among students who borrow. As with last year’s list, we’ve also included future earnings data for graduates 10 years after starting school, to give you an idea of what attending a particular institution may mean for a student’s post-graduation salary.

Our top 100 public institutions give you an array of choices, from tiny schools to behemoth flagships. These 10 schools lead the pack.

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