10 Best Values in Private Colleges Under $20K: Kiplinger

10 Best Value Private Colleges: Kiplinger

on November 14 2013 3:46 PM
Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, October 7, 2009. REUTERS

When comparing college costs, sticker prices are often useless. The net price, the annual cost in tuition, fees, room, board and books after need and merit-based aid is factored in, represents the real cost.

These 10 schools from Kiplinger’s 2014 ranking of the best private college values may have high sticker prices, but each has a net price of less than $17,000, and their students borrow less than the national average of $27,000. Six schools are liberal arts colleges, and four are private universities, including two Ivies.

1.       Berea College

Location: Berea, Ky.

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,658

Total annual cost: $7,920

Avg. need-based aid: $3,469

Avg. net cost: $4,451

Kiplinger’s rank: 63 among liberal arts colleges

Every Berea student has demonstrated financial need (more than half come from families where neither parent has a college degree) and receives a full four-year tuition scholarship. Other costs may be covered through other scholarships or loans. Each student spends less than $5,000 on average for their education and graduates with an average $7,224 in debt.

2.       Brigham Young University

Location: Provo, Utah

Undergraduate enrollment: 31,060

Total annual cost: $17,942 (non-Mormon);  $13,092 (Mormon)

Avg. need-based aid: $4,603

Avg. net cost: $13,339 (non-Mormon); $8,489 (Mormon)

Kiplinger’s rank: 32 among private universities

The Church of Latter-day Saints sponsors BYU, but both Mormons and non-Mormons pay less than $18,000 to attend and the students who borrow (fewer than one third) borrow less than $15,000.

3.       Principia College

Location: Elsah, Ill.

Undergraduate enrollment: 489

Total annual cost: $37,480

Avg. need-based aid: $22,681

Avg. net cost: $14,799

Kiplinger’s rank: 56 among liberal arts colleges

The school overlooks the Mississippi River and is 45 miles from St. Louis and though not affiliated with the Christian Science Church, the church’s principles form the culture of the school. Students graduate with less than $22,000 in student loans.

4.       Yale University

Location: New Haven, Conn.

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,405

Total annual cost: $58,550

Avg. need-based aid: $43,115

Avg. net cost: $15,435

Kiplinger’s rank: 1 among private universities

Only 7 percent of applicants are admitted, but Yale meets 100 percent of need and gives need-based aid to families earning as much as $200,000 per year. The 17 percent of undergraduates who take out loans graduate with a little more than $10,000 in debt.

5.       Amherst College

Location: Amherst, Mass.

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,817

Total annual cost: $59,714

Avg. need-based aid: $43,424

Avg. net cost: $16,290

Kiplinger’s rank: 5 among liberal arts colleges

Less than one third of students borrow to attend Amherst, a highly ranked liberal arts college, and they graduate with less than $15,000 average in debt.

6.       Christendom College

Location: Front Royal, Va.

Undergraduate enrollment: 388

Total annual cost: $31,650

Avg. need-based aid: $15,192

Avg. net cost: $16,458

Kiplinger’s rank: 49 among liberal arts colleges

Christendom is a Roman Catholic liberal arts college with core curriculum in theology, philosophy, literature, math, political science, and the natural sciences. The college awards need-based aid to 77 percent of its students and merit-based aid to 96 percent of its students.

7.       Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Mass.

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,658

Total annual cost: $57,497

Avg. need-based aid: $40,950

Avg. net cost: $16,547

Kiplinger’s rank: 4 among private universities

Harvard provides an average need-based aid per student of more than $40,000 and full aid to 63 percent of students who receive need-based assistance.

8.       Wofford College

Location: Spartanburg, S.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,568

Total annual cost: $45,795

Avg. need-based aid: $28,915

Avg. net cost: $16,880

Kiplinger’s rank: 32 among liberal arts colleges

Wofford is affiliated with United Methodist Church and provides merit aid averaging $14,769 and need-based aid that lowers the sticker price by nearly two-thirds on average.

9.       Centenary College of Lousiana

Location: Shreveport, La.

Undergraduate enrollment: 698

Total annual cost: $42,175

Avg. need-based aid: $25,230

Avg. net cost: $16,945

Kiplinger’s rank: 74 among private universities

Centenary is the oldest chartered liberal arts college west of the Mississippi River and is, like Wofford, affiliated with the United Methodist Church. More than half of its students quality for need-based aid, and half without need qualify for merit aid.

10.   Thomas Aquinas College

Location: Santa Paula, Calif.

Undergraduate enrollment: 370

Total annual cost: $32,450

Avg. need-based aid: $15,498

Avg. net cost: $16,952

Kiplinger’s rank: 41 among liberal arts colleges

Thomas Aquinas is a Roman Catholic college with a curriculum based on “the great books” of Western civilization. Faculty guide Socratic discussion. The college doesn’t offer merit aid, but meets 100 percent of need-based aid to the 81 percent of students who have qualified. 

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