U.S. News college rankings: Where are the best values, top choices for low-income students

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If you don’t want to be eating instant noodles for every meal, use these expert semesters-budgeting secrets. Tony Spitz has the details.

Where can you get the most value for your college dollar? According to U.S. News & World Report, among national universities, that would be at Princeton. 

The names at the top of the 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings are the ones you expect to see, but for students and parents who have the ballooning cost of higher education on their minds, two measures may stand out. 

This year, for the first time, the schools were evaluated based on how well they enroll and graduate low-incomestudents. The report also breaks out the colleges where students get the best value for their money after need-based grants kick in. 

A tip for students who could use some financial help to attend college: Study hard and aim high. 

At Princeton University, which is ranked at the top overall among national universities for the eighth consecutive year, the cost of attending for a year can come down to $15,585 including tuition, fees, room and board and other expenses. That’s discounted from a total of $66,950, after need-based assistance is applied.

Harvard, which ranked second in value is slightly more expensive once need-based assistance is considered at $15,996 compared to total costs of $69,600 for a year. 

As for the colleges where low-income students fare well, the University of California-Los Angeles snagged the No. 1 top public school spot among national universities, thanks to that new metric, according to U.S. News, which pointed out that five of the top public schools are in California, including the University of California-Santa Barbara in fifth place and the University of California-Irvine in seventh.

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U.S. News uses a variety of factors to compile its annual rankings. That now includes an analysis of the graduation rates of students who receive Pell Grants, federal subsidies for low-income students, and the differences in graduation rates of Pell Grant students and students who didn’t receive this funding. As part of the U.S. News methodology shift, the category called student outcomes, which was weighted 30 percent last year, is now at 35 percent.

“A university is not successful if it does not graduate its students, which is why the Best Colleges rankings place the greatest value on outcomes, including graduation and retention rates,” Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, said in a statement. “By including social mobility indicators, U.S. News is further recognizing colleges that serve all of their students, regardless of economic status.”

Here are the top schools in some of the major categories:

Best national universities 

1. Princeton University (NJ)
2. Harvard University (MA)
3. Columbia University (NY) (tie)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie)
3. University of Chicago (tie)
3. Yale University (CT) (tie)

Best national liberal arts colleges 

1. Williams College (MA)
2. Amherst College (MA)
3. Swarthmore College (PA) (tie)
3. Wellesley College (MA) (tie)

Best public schools

National universities 
1. University of California-Los Angeles
2. University of California-Berkeley
3. University of Virginia

National liberal arts colleges 
1. United States Military Academy (NY)
2. United States Naval Academy (MD)
3. United States Air Force Academy (CO)

Best value schools

National universities 
1. Princeton University (NJ)
2. Harvard University (MA)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

National liberal arts colleges
1. Williams College (MA)
2. Pomona College (CA)
3. Amherst College (MA)

Best historically black colleges and universities

1. Spelman College (GA)

2. Howard University (DC)

3. Hampton University (VA) (tie)

3. Morehouse College (GA) (tie)

For the complete U.S. News rankings, visit https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges.


A new report says the most expensive colleges and universities in the United States could set a student back up to $60,000 per year!

Follow USA TODAY reporter Zlati Meyer on Twitter: @ZlatiMeyer

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