Best College Values 2019
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|September 2019
Best College Values 2019

Our expanded ranking names hundreds of colleges where you can get a quality education at an affordable price.

Kaitlin Pitsker

When Kiplinger’s began ranking colleges for best value two decades ago, concerns about the price of college weren’t in the spotlight. Since then, the cost of attending college has skyrocketed. Over the past 20 years, the average cost of tuition and fees at private four-year colleges has increased 58% after adjusting for inflation. And costs for students attending in-state public colleges have more than doubled, according to the College Board. Today’s sky-high sticker prices, growing student debt and relatively flat family incomes have sparked a national conversation and will likely be an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.

With so many variables at play, it’s vital to start your college search by looking at the full array of college options, rather than sticking to high-profile or nearby schools that may already be on your radar (see the snapshot of Hamilton College, on page 50). To that end, Kiplinger’s presents an expanded version of our annual best college values list. This year, we name 400 schools to our best values list, plus 100 schools that narrowly missed our list but also deliver a great value. As in recent years, we feature a combined list that ranks the top values for all U.S. colleges and universities, plus lists of the best values in private universities, private liberal arts colleges (ranked separately to account for their different missions) and public colleges.


All the schools on our list meet our definition of value: a high-quality education at an affordable price. We start by analyzing academic measures, including the student-to-faculty ratio, the test scores of incoming freshmen, and the percentage of students who return for sophomore year (see “How We Rank the Schools,” on page 52).


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September 2019