25 Best Value Colleges

Updated December 7, 2022

On this list we will be examining the best value colleges and academies in the United States. Both public and private schools are included on this list.

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In higher education, Colleges, Universities, Academies, and Institutes are all slightly different, but these terms as used in the United States tend to be more interchangeable than the way they are used in other countries. On this list we will be examining the best value colleges and academies in the United States. Both public and private schools are included on this list.

Top 25 Best Value Schools

  1. Berea College

    Berea, KY

    Berea College is committed to providing students with an affordable, high quality option for college. Every student admitted to Berea receives a 4 year scholarship of $100,000, intended, when combined with other forms of financial aid, to completely cover the cost of attendance for all four years a student is at Berea. This small liberal arts school is a bit off the radar for most, but when you consider that it is free or nearly free for every student who attends, it's hard to argue that it shouldn't be considered a best value school. Kiplinger ranks Berea in its top 100 best value liberal arts schools, and it is ranked #1 best value among schools where students pay under $20,000 per year on average. The average student debt upon graduation for the few students who do borrow money is one of the lowest among private colleges in the country at just over $7,000 which is $21,000 under the national average.

  2. Amherst College

    Amherst, MA

    Amherst College is ranked as the #4 best value college by Kiplinger. The high quality liberal arts education results in increased earning potential for graduates, with a track record of success in their academic and professional careers. The average student debt for graduates who borrowed money (Amherst averages approximately $41,000 per year in need-based financial aid alone) was $12,700, making this one of the cheapest best value colleges.

  3. Wellesley College

    Wellesley, MA

    With a 30% acceptance rate, Wellesley is a high quality and accessible liberal arts institution. Ranked in the top 10 of Kiplinger's best value liberal arts colleges, the college focuses on being as affordable as possible, while still providing a high quality education for students. Wellesley, a women's only college, has educated many powerful women, including Hillary Rodham Clinton and Madeleine Albright. The average student debt for the few students that must borrow to pay for Wellesley College is just over $13,000, less than half the national average.

  4. United States Air Force Academy

    Air Force Academy, CO

    The United States Air Force is much more than flying and maintaining airplanes. Any student interested in a technology centered career should consider United States Air Force Academy. The Air Force is responsible for securing the communications of the various branches of the armed forces. There are many computer technology, IT, network security, and computer engineering opportunities here, and students that have graduated from such a program and served in the USAF afterwards often go on to hold high level positions in private companies if they decide to leave the military. The tuition is $0 as it is replaced with a commitment to military service.

  5. United States Naval Academy

    Annapolis, MD

    A similar deal to West Point, students of the Naval Academy will serve in the U.S. Navy for a period of time after graduation. All of the military academies are highly respected, and so choosing between them comes down to which branch of the military prospective students prefer to serve in after graduation. Students at the U.S. Naval Academy receive a well-rounded education, designed to train military officers capable of critical thinking and understanding the importance of the structure of the armed forces. The education and subsequent military service takes many different forms, and there are many options for students seeking to go into various fields such as engineering, the sciences, administration, and more. The tuition costs $0, as it is replaced with a commitment to military service.

  6. United States Military Academy: West Point

    West Point, NY

    The legendary military academy, West Point, is difficult to get into, but is a fantastic option for those interested in military service with the U.S. Army post-graduation. The tuition for those who are accepted is free. This is because all those attending the school must serve in the armed forces. It's not a trade-off that everybody will be comfortable with, but West Point is one of the most respected schools in the country, and graduates will have both high class education, and military service experience when eventually entering the job market.

  7. Williams College

    Williamstown, MA

    While Williams College is very expensive on paper, the financial aid office is committed to providing students who deserve and want to be there with the means to pay for it, regardless of their socio-economic circumstances. Up until a few years ago, Williams was able to do this without their students even needing to take out student loans. However, their no-loan policy has since been changed as the economy makes it more necessary for students to exercise this option. Still, Williams seeks to minimize student debt. Only 43% of students at Williams ended up needing to resort to loans to cover what they lacked in other financial aid, and the median student debt among that 43% was just over $8,000, roughly $20,000 under the national student debt average.

  8. Pomona College

    Claremont, CA

    Hailed by both USA Today and the Today Show as one of the best value colleges in the country, Pomona College is another high grade liberal arts school that seems expensive at first. Of course when you take into account that financial aid is primarily need-based, and only 47% of students end up needing to borrow money to pay for their education, and the average student debt among those students is just over $10,000, $18,000 below the national average, you begin to see a picture of why the school is considered such a great value.

  9. Scripps College

    Claremont, CA

    This small liberal arts college has a 36% acceptance rate, and among students that must take out loans, its average student debt is several thousand dollars under the national student debt average. Scripps College has been a womens college since it was founded by Ellen Browning Scripps, a powerful figure in early women's rights movements in the United States. The college exists to provide women with an education uniquely tailored to help them succeed and understand how best to effect positive change around the world for all women.

  10. Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA

    USA Today ranked Swarthmore College as the #1 best value college from among the top 100 list published by the Princeton Review for the third straight year. Factors in the ranking are the quality of the undergraduate program, costs, financial aid, and a strong ratio of student debt to earnings potential. Swarthmore is one of the most highly regarded liberal arts colleges in the country. In a day an age where liberal arts seems to be less valued than other methods of learning, it is interesting that students attending high level liberal arts institutions tend to perform better in the job market than many other styles of education. 52% of attendees receive need-based financial aid and 70% share in over 38 million dollars in scholarships and work study programs to help reduce the high cost of room, board, and tuition, which combined amounts to just over $57,000 per year. Average student debt is just over $16,000 per year.

Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools

At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs. We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.
Metric Data Used Percentage
Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%
You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.

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Factors Considered When Ranking Schools

The ranking methodology used to assemble this list is centered on low average student loan debt, which signifies strong financial aid programs available to students. Low average student debt is important when considering the value of a college, as not all majors have the same earning potential. The colleges vary on points of accessibility and other limiting factors, but as a whole the list represents a broad range of schools. Data source: College Navigator/NCES.

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