Are the "Best Value" Colleges the Same as the "Most Affordable" Colleges?
Researching colleges, you have probably come across a ranking of colleges that are the "best value." Before you take these lists too seriously, ask yourself what makes a college a good value for you? You can't determine a college's value from a one-size-fits-all affordability ranking. Here are some things to think about when determining a college's value:
- Published Cost of Attendance (COA) – The published cost of attendance includes all the costs associated with attending a specific college, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses. Most colleges publish COA in the admissions or financial aid section of their websites.
- Your Net Cost of College – A college's published COA is rarely what you actually pay to attend. If you are applying for student aid to help pay for college, your true net (out-of-pocket) cost may be lower. When evaluating a college, make sure to take student aid into account.
- Graduation Statistics – A big factor in figuring out how much a college degree will cost you is knowing how fast you will graduate. It doesn't take a math whiz to understand that you will pay much less for your degree if you graduate in four years than if you graduate in five or six. Check graduation rates for each college of interest to learn how many years, on average, it takes to earn an undergraduate degree.
- Strength of a Degree – If you have a clear sense of your career path, think about a college's reputation when determining value. If one college costs more than another but puts you in a better position to land a good job after you graduate, it may be worth the extra investment. While reputation and the quality of education are important, you will get out of college what you put into it, so make your best effort.
Remember, you aren't looking for the one best college. You are looking for the best colleges for you. Look for ones that meet your unique needs, financially and academically. With more than 6,500 U.S. colleges out there, your strong research efforts will find many great fits.