Kiplinger’s bases its rankings on a combination of academics and affordability. We start with data from more than 500 public four-year colleges and universities, provided by Peterson’s/Nelnet, then add our own reporting.
We narrow the list to about 120 schools based on measures of academic quality -- including SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and four- and six-year graduation rates, which most schools reported for the class entering in 2002.
We then rank each school based on cost and financial aid. In our scoring system, academic quality carries more weight than costs (almost two-thirds of the total).
To assess costs, we look at total expenses for in-state students (tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, and books); the average cost for a student with need after subtracting grants (but not loans); the average cost for a student without need after subtracting non-need-based grants; the average percentage of need met by aid; and the average debt per student before graduation. (In the table, aid is need-based assistance.)
To determine out-of-state rankings, we run the academic-quality and expense numbers again, this time using total costs for out-of-state residents and average costs after aid.
Our rankings focus on traditional four-year schools with broad-based curricula. As a result, schools that offer great value but focus on special or narrow academic programs, such as the military service academies, are excluded. Cornell University, best known as a member of the Ivy League, is another exception. Four of Cornell’s colleges are part of the privately endowed university, which we consider a private institution. But three of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges are land-grant state schools that cost much less -- about $22,000 a year for tuition and fees.
Use our tool to sort all 100 schools.
Stock Market Today: Stocks Close Higher After Strong November Jobs Report
The unemployment rate ticked lower last month, while annual wage growth eased.
By Karee Venema Published
Student Loan Debt: Another $4.8B Forgiven
Biden announces $4.8 billion in student loan debt relief for more than 80,000 borrowers.
By Jamie Feldman Published
Four Tips for Renting Out Your Home on Airbnb
real estate Here's what you should know before listing your home on Airbnb.
By Miriam Cross Published
Five Ways to a Cheap Last-Minute Vacation
Travel Procrastinator? No matter. You can pull off a fun and memorable getaway on a moment's notice — without breaking the bank.
By Vaishali Varu Published
How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?
insurance Instead of relying on rules of thumb, you’re better off taking a systematic approach to figuring your life-insurance needs.
By Kimberly Lankford Published
When Is Amazon Prime Day?
Amazon Prime In 2023 Amazon had two Prime Day events — one in July and another, called Big Deal Days, in October. We expect 2024 to follow the same schedule.
By Bob Niedt Last updated
How to Shop for Life Insurance in 3 Easy Steps
insurance Shopping for life insurance? You may be able to estimate how much you need online, but that's just the start of your search.
By Kaitlin Pitsker Published
5 Ways to Shop for a Low Mortgage Rate
Becoming a Homeowner Rates are high this year, but you can still find an affordable loan.
By Daniel Bortz Published
Retirees, It's Not Too Late to Buy Life Insurance
life insurance Improvements in underwriting have made it easier to qualify for life insurance, which can be a useful estate-planning tool.
By David Rodeck Published
How to Benefit From Rising Interest Rates
Financial Planning Savers will get the best rates from top-yielding savings and money market deposit accounts at online banks.
By Rivan V. Stinson Last updated