Which schools will give you the best bang for your tuition buck? Money ranks 736 four-year colleges based on 21 factors in three categories: affordability, educational quality, and alumni earnings.
In terms of affordability the following factors were taken into account: tuition increases, parent and student loans, merit aid, and the length of time it takes to graduate. (See more on this below under About Price.)
Another consideration was the “value added” grade that takes into account how well students are expected to perform based on their academic and economic backgrounds.
According to a Washington Post article, Money’s list should be getting much more attention than it actually receives. The subject of ROI, the article explains, should be one of the biggest questions prospective students ask, and it’s practically missing from other, better known rankings. The article states:
“Unlike U.S. News, which focuses on several measures that really shouldn’t matter to students – percentage of alumni who donate, for example – Money magazine tries to answer the questions that prospective students should be asking on their college tours this summer: What is the graduation rate, net price (what’s the real tuition they’ll pay), how much do they and their parents have to borrow in loans, and will they learn any marketable skills that will help them get a job in order to pay back those loans?”
Money provides a more accurate look at school price tags by multiplying the net one-year cost times the average number of years it takes a student to complete their studies. “An expensive college is fine,” the Washington Post article states, “but not if it takes you eight years instead of four years to complete your degree.” According to Money, it takes students on average 4.3 years to graduate college. Student loans and federal PLUS loans (no borrowing limit) are also taken into consideration.
The last, and perhaps most important factor Money measures, is the “outcomes” category. How much will a graduate’s post-degree job pay? (This is measured by using Payscale data and LinkedIn information.)