What's Wrong with Princeton Review's Best Value College Rankings

Beware of  The Princeton Review’s latest college rankings of the 100 Best Value Colleges for 2010.

Here’s why I’m not a fan of Princeton Review’s generous college rankings: Some parents who use this list on their college search could up spending more than $200,000 for a college degree. Some deal, huh?

Kiplinger’s best value college rankings doesn’t make clear who would benefit financially from attending these generous schools. Nearly all the schools would be great deals for parents who earn modest salaries, but they would be incredibly expensive for affluent parents.

Let me give you an example. Nearly all the schools which made Princeton Review’s most generous college list do not award scholarships to affluent students.

  1. Swarthmore College (PA)
  2. Harvard College (MA)
  3. Wesleyan College (GA)
  4. Princeton University (NJ)
  5. Yale University (CT)
  6. Williams College (MA)
  7. Rice University (TX)
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  9. Amherst College (MA)
  10. Wellesley College (MA)

As far as I’m aware, only two of the schools — Wesleyan College and Rice University — give merit scholarships to students who don’t qualify for need-based financial aid. The other schools reserve their student financial aid to families who truly need this help to attend college.

I am not suggesting that the schools which don’t give college scholarships to affluent student are doing something wrong. Far from it. But if a well-off family uses this list in hopes of getting a great college price, they are going to be making a costly financial mistake.

Here’s my other gripe: For families embarking on a college search, the list of the best value public universities list is just as flawed.

Here is the list of the top 10 best value public universities:

  1. University of Virginia
  2. City University of New York – Hunter College
  3. New College of Florida
  4. Florida State University
  5. University of Colorado-Boulder
  6. State University of New York-Binghamton
  7. University of Georgia
  8. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  9. Texas A&M University
  10. University of Oklahoma

While the cost of attending these 10 state universities can be modest, the price for out-of-state students can be sky high. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, for instance, residents pay roughly $18,400 for tuition and room and board. Most kids from other states pay about $38,400. What kind of “deal” is that.

Here’s the bottom line:  Beware of college rankings. You have to do your own research.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a blog for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

Read More:

What’s Wrong With Princeton Review’s Best Value College List

Top 10 College Websites for Finding Great Schools

Gaming the College Ranking System

, , , , , ,

2 Responses to What's Wrong with Princeton Review's Best Value College Rankings

  1. Carrie Freeman February 16, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    Lynn, what rankings do you reccomend? We always have parents and students wanting to know top colleges in this or that, or top state specific schools, and then smaller liberal arts… where can we go to find a middle tier school specailizing in nursing, etc?

  2. Susie Watts January 21, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    I am not a fan of the Princeton Review’s Best Value College List. I think that too many parents and students focus on the brand name and fail to consider what is the best fit. I try to have families stay away from college rankings because most of them are based on statistical information that often doesn’t relate to a student’s actual college experience. If a student likes a school and a visit confirms that it is a good match, go for it and don’t worry about where it ranks.

Leave a Reply to Susie Watts Click here to cancel reply.