These 10 Colleges Will Give You the Biggest Educational Bang for Your Buck

Best value colleges
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Figuring out which college to attend is a HUGE decision.

Not only does it affect which football team you’ll root for, who your peers will be and what classes you’ll take — it’ll have a financial impact for years and years to come.

And one thing you want to ensure?

That your college education provides a good return on investment (ROI). Make sure the amount you pay reflects the education you receive, as well as your earning potential after you graduate.

These might seem like tough facts to find, but luckily, Money magazine has already done the legwork for you.

It ranked hundreds of schools to determine the best value colleges — schools providing a “great education, at an affordable price, that prepares students for rewarding careers.”

Curious to see which ones cracked the top 10? The results might surprise you…

The Best Value Colleges in the U.S.

To begin with, Money looked at 2,000 four-year colleges and universities across the U.S., omitting those “with graduation rates below the median, financial difficulties, or fewer than 500 undergraduates.”

It then ranked the remaining 705 schools on 24 factors in the following categories: educational quality, affordability and alumni success.

That’s not all, though. It looked at the mix of majors offered — and even analyzed how the schools did comparatively, by assessing “how well students at each school did vs. what’s expected for students with similar economic and academic backgrounds.”

Based on those comprehensive guidelines, here are the top 10 best value colleges. (If you want to see the full list, click here.)

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Are you surprised?

As we’ve discussed before, sometimes the most elite schools provide the best value, since many meet the full financial need of any student who gets in.

It’s not just PR fluff, either. As Money shows, nearly 60% of students receive need-based aid at Princeton and Harvard.

If you can’t get into an Ivy League school, though, don’t fret. My public school alma mater, the University of Michigan, came in at number two!

It just goes to show, when it comes to college choice, prestige isn’t the only thing that matters. Attending a more affordable public school could pay off in more ways than one.

So if you’re about to graduate high school, don’t be swayed by glossy pamphlets or carefully coiffed campuses. Compare each college’s ROI and value when deciding where to go.

And, if you don’t know what you want, wait.

Take a gap year, work abroad or attend community college for a few semesters.

College will still be waiting, as expensively as ever, if and when you’re ready.

Your Turn: Did any of the schools on this list surprise you?

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.

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