If you're aiming to score a good deal on college, look no further than Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. That's the school named No. 1 this week by Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine in its 2016 Best College Values rankings. Washington and Lee costs about $59,000 a year, and its salary yardstick — the median earnings of a worker who enrolled at the school 10 years before — comes in at about $78,000.
Washington and Lee was one of Kiplinger's top 300 best value colleges in the United States. To create the list, analysts evaluated more than 1,200 institutions on factors including competitiveness, graduation rates, financial aid, academic support and student indebtedness, according to its website.
Princeton University, the Princeton, New Jersey, Ivy league school that topped the ranking last year, came in second for 2016. It was the only institution in the top 10 that boasted students graduating with less than $10,000 in debt and a median salary of $75,100. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was No. 3. Its students left school with an average of $15,000 in debt, but its salary yardstick was more than $87,000.
As with all rankings, the Kiplinger's list should be viewed with skepticism. For example, U.S. News and World Report also put Princeton and Harvard at the top of its best value list, but it followed them with Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Stanford University in Stanford, California. Finance site Bankrate chose the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico, and the New College of Florida in Sarasota, Florida, as its best value winners.
Here are Kiplinger's top 10 best value colleges overall:
1. Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia
2. Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey
3. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
4. Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina
5. Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
6. Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee
7. Rice University in Houston
8. Pomona College in Claremont, California
9. Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
10. University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
11. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina
12. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio
13. Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
14. Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut
15. California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California