Academic Showstopper: Hamilton College

Stellar academics, generous financial aid packages and impressive four-year graduation rate, help make this small liberal arts college a top notch pick for new students.

Hamilton College, perched atop a hill and surrounded by the rolling farmlands of central New York, is a fixture on Kiplinger’s best college values list. Named for the founding father celebrated in the Broadway musical, the small liberal arts school attracts stellar students. Strong academics and robust financial aid awards help Hamilton secure its place in this year’s rankings (number 11 on our combined list and number six among liberal arts colleges). More than 80% of incoming freshmen report scoring 30 or higher on the ACT. The school’s 90% four-year graduation rate is among the highest of all 400 colleges on our list. And Hamilton is among a small group of schools that admit students without regard to their ability to pay and that meet 100% of students’ demonstrated financial need.

Kiplinger's Best College Values, 2019

Moreover, many of Hamilton’s nearly 2,000 students are attracted to the flexible liberal arts curriculum, wooded 1,350-acre campus and close-knit community. The school’s open curriculum sets few degree requirements beyond those required for a student’s major. “Students are changing jobs, fields and industries more than ever before, and they need the flexibility and creativity that comes from a liberal arts education,” says Hamilton president David Wippman.

Face Time With Teachers

No matter which courses students pick, a nine-to-one student-faculty ratio means they’ll get plenty of face time with professors, many of whom also host students for dinner in their homes. As they crisscross the school’s main thoroughfare, students are careful not to step on the bronze map; legend has it that those who do will not graduate.

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To help students launch a successful career, Hamilton offers plenty of academic support and career services programs. Each summer, the school provides more than $300,000 to support students working in low-paying or unpaid internships; more than 80% of Hamilton students complete at least two internships before graduation. Many will find their first job through the school’s robust alumni network.

Hamilton posts an annual sticker price of nearly $70,000, but generous need-based financial aid awards can make Hamilton surprisingly affordable. Half of the students--some from families that earn $300,000 a year or more -- receive need-based aid, and the average award for students who qualify cuts the school’s total cost to about $27,000 a year. Hamilton includes only federally subsidized loans in financial aid awards for domestic students. These debts come with low interest rates, and interest won’t accrue as long as a student is enrolled in school.

Kaitlin Pitsker
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Pitsker joined Kiplinger in the summer of 2012. Previously, she interned at the Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and with Chronogram magazine in Kingston, N.Y. She holds a BS in magazine journalism from Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.