10 Best Values in U.S. Colleges, 2016

These 10 schools represent the top-scoring schools on our combined rankings, which compare private universities, private liberal arts colleges and public colleges (based on out-of-state costs) to help you see your options side by side.

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These 10 schools represent the top-scoring schools on our combined rankings, which compare private universities, private liberal arts colleges and public colleges (based on out-of-state costs) to help you see your options side by side. We rank our full list of 300 colleges and universities based on our definition of value: a quality education at an affordable price. Among the factors we consider for academic quality: competitive admission rates, high four-year graduation rates and low student-faculty ratios. On the cost side of the equation, we look for schools with a reasonable price tag, generous need-based aid for students who qualify, and low student debt.

This year, for the first time, we present future earnings data for each school on our best values list as a starting point to estimate your student’s post-graduation earnings. The figures, which show the median earnings of workers who started at a particular college 10 years earlier and received federal financial aid, come from the U.S. Department of Education. The data do not consider whether the workers graduated from college or went on to graduate school. Because of these limitations, we don't include these figures in calculating each school's rank on our list.

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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.