The Princeton Review has just released its new 2013 edition of “The Best Value Colleges,” and like most college rating systems, it’s a bit hazy to say the least.
The value colleges are divided into public and private schools. The private list is stocked with unsurprising choices like Harvard, Williams and Swarthmore — a school that’s been famed for years as one of America’s most expensive colleges.
School ratings, according to PR’s website, are based on “30 data points covering academics, costs and financial aid.” Career results from a degree apparently don’t count. And while the point is made that aid packages given out by these schools drop their true cost drastically (from an average published rate of $54,200 a year for private schools to a real average cost per student of $21,700.), the schools listed are so brutally selective that this guide seems meant for only stellar applicants.
Little Debt, No Surprise
A downright silly assertion that’s been made by other college raters is that top U.S. private schools should somehow be congratulated for producing grads with lower than average college debt. It seems almost too obvious to mention, but it just so happens that people who apply to the likes of Hamilton, Rice and Williams tend to come from rich families who don’t need to borrow to pay their tuition. Little wonder that they graduation without much debt. Maybe that’s why the median debt of grads from private schools was only $20,556 in 2011, compared with $21,373 for public schools, even though the public schools are far cheaper.
A good point is made that all students should take published tuition rates with a grain of salt. After grants and aid packages, most students end up paying half or less what most schools advertise as their standard rates. Another good point made is that changing majors in college frequently extends the time it takes to graduate, often adding several thousands of dollars to the total cost of a degree.
Although it’s interesting to see how America’s state university systems compare to each other on value, it’s not clear how useful the cost estimates here are, given that choosing a public “value” school outside your own state means you are required to pay a drastically higher tuition rate.
All in all, this feels like a value rating system for families who are affluent enough to not have to worry too much about actual cost.
More on Princeton Review’s site here.