value for money
Desperate to study in the US but strapped for cash? Look no further. Source: Artem Bali/Unsplash.

Money is always going to be a factor when deciding to further your education. You want good value, whether or not money is tight for you. But higher education often comes at a high price, particularly in the US.

So you want a quality US education with minimum cost? According to new rankings released this week by Forbes, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is the best value university in the US.

The universities and colleges were scored for their net price (considering financial aid and the costs of room and board), net debt, alumni earnings, timely graduation, school quality and accessibility for low-income students.

UCLA is shortly followed by the University of California, Berkeley which made top spot in 2017’s rankings. The two universities switched places this year as UCLA’s yearly net price was US$14,200, compared to Berkeley’s $17,200. UCLA also has four percent more students receiving federal Pell Grants, scholarships available to domestic students.

The private research university of Brigham Young takes the spot for third best value, although much of its high score can be attributed to its low tuition costs of just US$5,200 which is kept low through support from the Mormon church. Brigham Young also boasts a net price of US$12,900.

The final two places in the top five are state research universities UC Irvine and the University of Washington, which rank fourth and fifth respectively.

If you thought Ivy League schools were expensive, you might be pleasantly surprised. Harvard ranked in at number six, followed by Stanford at seven, and then Ivy-equivalent Princeton.

Despite strong measures across the board, unsurprisingly, the average graduate salary at these colleges certainly helped bump them up the rankings. Harvard graduates raked in an average of US$140,700 per year at their mid-career points. Stanford alumni made just US$300 less than Harvard with US$140,400 on average. Princeton grads earned even more than Harvard and Stanford grads with an average salary of US$147,800.

When it came to net cost, however, Princeton fell behind Harvard and Stanford. It also had 14 percent fewer Pell Grant recipients than Stanford, although more than Harvard.

The majority of the list is taken up by public research universities, however, private schools with prestigious academic reputations, including smaller liberal arts colleges are prominent towards the top of the list. Yale comes in at 14, followed by WilliamsPomona, and MIT.

One institution Forbes notes is a “standout” is the City University of New York (CUNY)‘s Baruch College, a public school where 45 percent of its students receive Pell Grants and grads go on to earn an average of US$103,000 mid-career.

Six women’s schools scored a place in Forbes’ top 300, with Wellesley at number 36, Barnard at 67, Smith at 165, Scripps at 171, Mount Holyoke at 268 and Bryn Mawr at 279.

The rankings looked at institutions offering four-year degrees, excluding private for-profit schools. For the 2018 rankings, Forbes revised its methodology, placing greater emphasis on earnings, price and debt than in previous years.

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