Students walk on the Princeton University campus. Reuters

Princeton University students are getting serious bang out of their bucks. The New Jersey Ivy league school topped the Kiplinger's Personal Finance 2015 list of best value colleges released this week with this statistic: Princeton students graduate with an average of $5,552 in debt. That's less than half of the average number for students at Yale University in Connecticut and Swarthmore College, a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, which came in second and third place.

Also scoring well were Duke University, Vassar College, Vanderbilt University and the Massachussetts Institute of Technology. At these schools, student debt at graduation hovered between $12,000 and $21,000 despite all of them giving the average student more than $34,000 in need-based financial aid. The lowest institutions on Kiplinger's list were DePaul University in Chicago, The University of California - Santa Cruz and the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.

The rankings come the day before President Barack Obama is expected to release the framework for his national college rating system. The White House is aiming to hold schools accountable for their federal financial aid and help students choose places they can afford to attend. The average cost of tuition and fees for the 2014-2015 school year ranged from roughly $31,000 at private colleges to $9,000 for residents at public colleges, according to College Board data.

Rankings tend to be controversial by nature, so Kiplinger's focuses on hard numbers, according to its FAQ page. The metrics include self-reported cost, financial aid, competitiveness, four-year graduation rates, student debt and academic support.

This year, for the first time, the magazine combined public, private and liberal arts schools into one comprehensive list. Privates tend to do better than publics in these kinds of rankings because they generally have higher graduation rates and bigger financial aid packages.

Here are the breakdowns for the best value colleges in the U.S.:

Top 5 overall:

  1. Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.
  2. Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
  3. Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.
  4. Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.
  5. Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass.

Top 5 private:

  1. Princeton University in Princeton, N.J.
  2. Yale University in New Haven, Conn.
  3. Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
  4. Rice University in Houston, Texas
  5. Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Top 5 public:

  1. University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C.
  2. University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va.
  3. University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.
  4. University of California in Berkeley, Calif.
  5. University of California in Los Angeles, Calif.

Top 5 liberal arts colleges:

  1. Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.
  2. Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va.
  3. Wellesley College in Wellsley, Mass.
  4. Haverford College in Haverford, Pa.
  5. Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.