By Iris Stone
In this ranking, we examine top value universities and colleges in Connecticut for 2016.
As one of the smallest states in the U.S. with a total population less than half of New York City, it would be easy to assume that Connecticut has little to offer in the way of higher education. But you’d be wrong! Prepare to have your expectations shattered – from its comprehensive set of public universities to high-performing private colleges that are full of character (think Conn College and Wesleyan) – Connecticut produces best value universities in spades. And of course, Connecticut is also home to the prestigious Yale University, a top school by any standard and (according to our methodology) one of the highest scoring schools on any of our state rankings.
But doesn’t a school like Yale, like most great universities, cost a lot of money to attend? You might be surprised by the kind of financial aid top schools provide deserving students. But you might also be surprised by how many affordable colleges – both public and private – offer a high quality education at a cheap price. Using a careful methodology (see below) we aimed to catalog and rank these “best value” universities, using metrics such as net price, selectivity/popularity, and graduation rate.
Methodology: Best Value Universities and Colleges in Connecticut
Graduation Rate: This indicator refers to the percentage of students who complete their degree within 150% of normal time (six years for a typical four-year degree program). Schools that perform well in this area have a track record of keeping students engaged and successful for their entire time on campus. We weighted this category 30% of the total and retrieved the information from College Navigator.
Net Price: In order to make sure that cost was still a factor in the ranking, we also considered overall net price as an indicator. Taken from data on College Navigator, “net price” is an approximate value that refers to the average amount of money a student could expect to pay each year after taking into account tuition, room and board, living expenses, scholarship awards, and financial aid packages. We weighted this category 25% of the total.
Acceptance Rate: Academically challenging, popular universities tend to be more selective and thus have a lower acceptance rate. In order to pinpoint those colleges that boast rigorous academics and also receive a large number of applications, we considered acceptance rate – the percentage of students out of the total number of applicants who receive an acceptance letter. We retrieved this information from College Navigator and weighted it 30% of the total.
20-Year Net Return on Investment: Taken from information on the website PayScale, this statistic provides a picture of how much students can expect to make after they graduate from a particular college. More specifically, the figure is calculated by taking the average income an alumnus will make over his or her first 20 years after graduation and subtracting the amount paid in tuition. Schools with a high ROI tend to be better at preparing their students for the job market. We weighted this category only 15% because data was not available for all colleges considered.
After adding all the points, we gave each university a final score out of 200. The schools below have scores ranging from 86 to 184, and each has something different to offer in terms of its cost, quality, and reputation. No one college is perfect (which is why the scores vary so much) but this ranking offers you a premier selection of universities to help get you started on your search for an education in Connecticut.
10. Southern Connecticut State University
New Haven, CT
Fans of the TV show Gilmore Girls will recall that while Rory attended Yale, her ex-boyfriend Dean enrolled at Southern Connecticut State, or “Southern” as it’s known locally. This school enrolls more than 11,000 students and sits within the artistic, historic neighborhood of Westville Village – a mere three miles from New Haven. Many students take advantage of this cheap Connecticut college’s 72% acceptance rate, and in doing so gain access to a myriad of degree options in liberal-arts disciplines such as English, History, and Biology, as well as a pre-professional majors in Journalism, Social Work, and Education. Undergrads can also participate in Air Force and Army ROTC programs and benefit from advising focused on medical, dental, and veterinary careers.
Net Price: $13,517/yr
9. Eastern Connecticut State University
Eastern takes seriously its reputation as Connecticut’s premier public liberal arts university. From the required Liberal Arts Curriculum (revamped in 2008) that emphasizes critical thinking skills to a special University Honors Program for “academically talented and venturesome students,” ECSU exudes academic integrity and steadfast scholarship at every turn. As further evidence of its commitment to genuine academic engagement, Eastern no longer requires standardized test scores from incoming students and has extended its array of degree programs to include pre-professional programs in Accounting and Sports Management on top of the traditional liberal arts. ECSU also offers nearly in-state tuition to residents of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, firmly establishing itself as a cheap Connecticut college.
Net Price: $16,050/yr
8. Central Connecticut State University
New Britain, CT
This versatile university truly has something for everyone, whether you’re looking to study music or nursing, engineering or athletic training. CCSU houses its academic programs in four schools – including one of only two public engineering schools in Connecticut – each of which offers a distinct academic experience. Top students at this affordable Connecticut college can also apply to the honors program and access unique, team-taught interdisciplinary courses. And when you’re looking to take a break from studying, Central’s modern amenities are up to the task. Considering the game rooms, study lounges, and new suite-style dorms (complete with a fitness center and communal kitchen) you might not even want to go home for the holidays!
Net Price: $14,734/yr
7. Western Connecticut State University
There’s a reason more than 4,000 full-time undergraduates choose Western Connecticut State as their home away from home. Nestled in the foothills of the Berkshires and just a short train ride from Manhattan, WSCU’s location appeals to nature lovers and city slickers alike. The school’s academic environment is equally attractive; small class sizes and attentive professors put even the most reserved students at ease, while students in the School of Visual and Performing Arts enjoy some particularly noteworthy perks. A special gem of WCSU, the school’s art program occupies a new state-of-the-art 130,000 square foot building and cements Western Connecticut State as one of the best Connecticut colleges for aspiring artists.
Net Price: $16,625/yr
6. Connecticut College
New London, CT
Although it’s one of the best colleges in Connecticut, Conn College isn’t like other liberal arts schools. CC goes above and beyond in its dedication to student success and places a high priority on pre-professional development through an innovative Career Enhancing Life Skills Program. Students complete an impressive seven workshops on self-assessment and career skills over the course of four years, and those who seek advising for law, medical, or business school enjoy a remarkable 80% acceptance rate! When you need a break from all the planning and preparing, take a stroll through the peaceful arboretum or relax in one of the close-knit residence halls – and since 98% of students live on campus, you’ll be surrounded by friends 24/7.
Net Price: $24,152/yr
5. Trinity College
At this liberal arts college of about 2,000 students, professors – not graduate students – teach all classes, including the general education courses that ensure core competencies in writing, humanities, arts, and foreign language. Trinity encourages students to pursue their individual interests, too, such as studying abroad (more than 50% of students do) or taking an optional January course. Its special academic initiatives, including the first-year interdisciplinary Gateway Program and the Health Fellows Program, provide hands-on experience for students interested in health professions. Trinity’s ideal location just two hours from both Boston and New York City, along with its generous financial aid program, makes it a top college in Connecticut and an affordable oasis in a notoriously expensive area.
Net Price: $25,120/yr
4. Wesleyan University
Wesleyan is among the oldest Methodist universities in America, and it is proud of its founders’ commitment to social service and education. A student body of just 2,900 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1 help maintain comfortably small class sizes – 75% have fewer than 20 students! In addition to typical majors and minors, certificates are available in specialized fields like International Relations, Molecular Biophysics, and Education, as well as combined BA/MA programs in Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Psychology. A 93% graduation rate supports Wesleyan’s ranking as one of the best universities in Connecticut, while its unique residential life is also popular with students. 150 wood frame houses – offered as a privilege to upperclassmen – feature private bedrooms and communal kitchens.
Net Price: $24,156/yr
3. University of Connecticut
With more than 30,000 students, UConn is one of the largest public research universities in the region – and one of the top universities in Connecticut. Thanks to its size and diversity, UConn has the resources to offer seven undergraduate degrees, including B.A., B.S. B.F.A., and Bachelor of Engineering programs. More than 100 majors span everything from the liberal arts (perhaps you dream of studying Art History or Philosophy), to pre-professional degrees that will jumpstart your career in Business Administration, Business Data Analytics, or Sport Management. UConn’s generous 50% acceptance rate guarantees that a wide range of students can explore their interests on its expansive campus; earn licensure through the School of Pharmacy, study music, or even take up puppetry!
Net Price: $19,049/yr
2. United States Coast Guard Academy
New London, CT
The USCGA is unlike any other college in Connecticut. Where else will you take courses in professional maritime studies and strategic intelligence studies? It’s the smallest of the five U.S. federal military academies (912 cadets), does not require a Congressional nomination for admission, and offers a full scholarship to all students, making it the most affordable college in Connecticut by far. But that doesn’t it’s easy access; the admissions rate is just 18%, and with an acceptance letter comes the promise that you’ll serve at least five years in the Coast Guard following graduation. Along with academic responsibilities that emphasize scientific and technical subjects (history, literature, and language classes are available also) your daily routine will include mandatory athletics and military training.
Net Price: $0/yr
1. Yale University
New Haven, CT
With a 6% acceptance rate, Yale is not only one of the best universities in Connecticut; it’s also one of the best in the world! 2,000 distinct courses each year make Yale an intellectual’s paradise, and even the most introverted students will thrive in the many classes that have fewer than 20 students –30% have fewer than ten! Abundant opportunities for senior projects and year-round research foster meaningful relationships with professors, while close-knit residential colleges (complete with their own advising centers, dining halls, sports, and “buttery” – a cheap spot for late-night snacks) provide an inviting home for students’ entire time at Yale. What’s more, the school meets 100% of demonstrated financial need: cost should never deter ambitious students from applying!
Net Price: $19,317/yr
This concludes our ranking of best value Connecticut colleges and universities.
About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.