Ten Great Tuition Deals for Your Dollars MONEY examined America's colleges in search of those that give great educations and hold down costs. These 10 scored high.
By JOHN STICKNEY Additional reporting for this story was contributed by Joseph S. Coyle, Gregory McCabe Crouch, Laura Meyers, Nancy Way and Caren M. Weiner. Turn to page 112 for tips on how you can judge a college.

(MONEY Magazine) – This has been the year for college bashing. William Bennett, U.S. Secretary of Education, has fulminated over runaway tuitions. Ernest Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has faulted the quality of undergraduate instruction. Allan Bloom, a University of Chicago philosophy professor, has cried catastrophe in his surprising bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students. Not only their souls may be impoverished. Given mounting costs -- tuitions have risen an average of 9% a year nationwide since 1980 -- families with college-bound teenagers are more obliged than ever to do their homework on the schools on their ''A'' list. Today the premium is on choosing both knowledgeably and economically. To identify colleges most worth the cost, MONEY polled education associations, high school guidance counselors and professors of higher education such as Wade Gilley of George Mason University, Kenneth Green of UCLA and David Riesman of Harvard. From a universe of 2,029 American four-year institutions, MONEY's authorities tended to take notice of schools with forceful leadership, usually from the president. The 10 choices are selective; they champion heterogeneity, reaching increasingly for students from minority groups and from beyond the school's own state or region or even the U.S.; they emphasize liberal learning, not just technical or career training, which means that their curriculums require courses in the humanities and sciences; and they send a healthy proportion of their students on to graduate study. In recent years these schools have taken aggressive measures to maintain or improve their academic quality. Each has defined a mission that helps it to maximize its resources -- and therefore to return more education for your money. These institutions, in short, are a bargain. In cost, they range from $2,934 to $12,700 this autumn for a year's total cost of attendance. By contrast, the national average is approximately $5,900 for public colleges and $10,500 for private institutions. A year at the most coveted schools such as Dartmouth, Northwestern or Stanford exceeds $15,000. The colleges are listed roughly from east to west. The enrollment figures represent full-time undergraduates only. Estimated total costs for the 1987-88 school year include tuition, room, board, fees and a travel allowance. At the public schools, total costs differ for out-of-staters, who face surcharges. The acceptance rate -- the percentage of applicants that the school accepts -- refers to this autumn's entering freshmen. In 1985-86, the most recent year for which figures are available, the national average acceptance rate for private institutions was 60%; for public schools, 71%.

COOPER UNION NEW YORK CITY Enrollment: 1,056 Total cost: $7,980 Acceptance rate: 17%

Students willing to give up the halls-of-ivy joys of conventional campus life get a fat consolation prize in Cooper Union. It is among the most selective of schools: its acceptance rate is equal to Harvard's, tougher than Yale's. Its tuition is zero -- repeat, zero -- and has been since Peter Cooper founded and endowed the place in 1859 as a haven of educational opportunity for students of all backgrounds. What Cooper Union is not is a standard liberal arts institution. Its three schools -- of art, architecture and engineering -- provide topflight technical training. But the administration also takes pointed pride in the college's sizable humanities division and the substantial workloads its faculty metes out. ''We don't want our students to get lost in their specializations,'' declares president Bill Lacy. Two-thirds of Cooper Union's students are native New Yorkers, many the first in their family to go to college. The rest range widely: 32% come from out of state, including one current senior, heir to a Texas oil fortune, who like everybody else attends tuition-free. Cooper, located in Manhattan's East Village, maintains no dorms; all students are responsible for their own housing, which accounts for most of the school's $7,980 estimated cost of attendance. Minorities make up 21% of the student body. About 50% of Cooper graduates go on to further study.

STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT BINGHAMTON BINGHAMTON, N.Y. Enrollment: 9,300 Total cost for state residents: $6,057 Total cost for out-of-staters: $7,907 Acceptance rate: 40%

Binghamton is a public institution that began life in 1950 on the campus of the formerly private Harpur College, 70 miles southwest of Syracuse, and adopted Harpur's strong liberal arts curriculum. Today two-thirds of Binghamton undergraduates are enrolled in the college of arts and sciences, known officially as Harpur, and are pursuing courses from Arabic to women's studies. This varied curriculum, combined with some of the strictest admissions criteria of any U.S. public university, has attracted a brainy student body, including many fugitives from high-priced private colleges. They benefit from strong departments in anthropology, biology, chemistry, cinema, history and music. As at most universities, public or private, teaching assistants -- doctoral candidates -- act as auxiliary faculty; TAs handle 15% of the course load. Out-of-state enrollment is 6% and growing. Minorities make up 12% of the student body. About 45% of seniors go on immediately to further study, compared with a national average of 10.6%.

FURMAN UNIVERSITY GREENVILLE, S.C. Enrollment: 2,434 Total cost: $10,642 Acceptance rate: 58%

Furman's catalogue-perfect lakeside campus houses a palpably intense academic environment. The student workload is heavy. About a third of the seniors elect to take a special seminar in their major that requires a thesis. Among the faculty, the emphasis is on teaching, not on personal research projects, and professors are expected to maintain generous office time -- four hours a day. This year 78 students will work on joint student-faculty research projects in chemistry, English and political science funded by a $200,000 annual grant and $400,000 from the school. Furman, founded in 1826, was named for a Baptist preacher, and 38% of the students are Baptist. In-staters are 41% of the student body; minorities account for a meager 4%. The students are also caring: a majority take part in a campus-coordinated voluntary community- service program. The school, with small graduate programs in chemistry and education, uses no teaching assistants. Standout departments are chemistry, economics, history, music, political science and psychology. Of the seniors, 38% go on to further study.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHARLOTTE CHARLOTTE, N.C. Enrollment: 11,753 Total cost for state residents: $2,934 Total cost for out-of-staters: $5,780 Acceptance rate: 74%

With a venerable, national-caliber public university at Chapel Hill, North Carolina is building another great state institution at Charlotte. True to its mission, UNCC, founded in 1946, is strongest in preprofessional departments such as accounting, architecture, business and engineering, though history also rates a rave. Still, the UNCC curriculum is balanced so that students are liberally exposed to courses other than those required for their majors. Teaching assistants handle about 16% of the course load. Like Chapel Hill, UNCC is affiliated with a research park (2,800 acres just off campus with tenants such as AT&T and IBM) that provides a ready local source of jobs for graduates. About 5.4% of the seniors go on to further study. Minority enrollment is 16%, and 85% of the student body are Tarheels.

EARLHAM COLLEGE RICHMOND, IND. Enrollment: 1,100 Total cost: $12,700 Acceptance rate: 65%

In a ranking of U.S. schools by proportion of 1970-80 graduates with doctoral degrees, Earlham was second (after California's Harvey Mudd College). That achievement reflects an unofficial Earlham tenet that the best students will become scholars. Professors are expected to devote themselves primarily to teaching; publish-or-perish doesn't apply at Earlham. The school was founded in 1847 by Quakers. The Quaker legacy is reflected in Earlham's internationalist approach; three courses in a language are required. Japanese studies is a specialty at the school, whose ties to Japan date back more than a century. Other academic strengths are in the natural sciences. Minorities make up 10% of enrollment; foreign nationals, 6%; and in-state students, 12%. About 45% of the seniors go on to further study.

ALVERNO COLLEGE MILWAUKEE, WIS. Enrollment: 1,900 Total cost: $7,470 Acceptance rate: 70%

This Roman Catholic-affiliated women's college (half the students are Catholic), now in its centennial year, is among the most innovative schools in the U.S. Since 1973, Alverno has pioneered a nontraditional teaching approach that homes in on the ability to put classroom knowledge to use. The course catalogue at Alverno resembles any other college's. To graduate, however, a student must demonstrate proficiency in eight ''abilities'' such as analyzing, communicating and problem solving. For example, a history professor might test a student about the origins of World War II by asking her to write and deliver a hypothetical speech to Congress in 1939 urging war preparedness. The student would be assessed on her knowledge of history and on her writing and delivery of the speech. No conventional grades are given, only written reports. Many Alverno students are first-generation collegians. Half the undergraduates are adults in a four-to-five-year weekend study program. Standout departments: art, business, education and nursing. The Alverno experiment makes the grade with graduate schools (about 11% of the class of '86 applied; all were admitted). Minorities are 17%; in-staters, 88%.

CORNELL COLLEGE MT. VERNON, IOWA Enrollment: 1,161 Total cost: $11,200 Acceptance rate: 79%

Cornell, founded in 1853 and not to be confused with another, younger institution of the same name in Ithaca, N.Y., practices a nontraditional approach to learning called the block plan. Now in its ninth year at Cornell, the concept was adopted from Colorado College, the only other school currently using it. While most college students take four or five courses per semester, Cornellians take one course at a time. That is, they study a single subject for 3 1/2 weeks, take an exam in the course and, after a four-day break, resume the cycle, with eight or nine ''blocks'' a year. This program's main rationale is that such immersion improves learning. Classes tend to be seminarlike, with an average of 17 students. One symbol of the block plan's effectiveness is that 40% of seniors go on to further study. Cornell is strong in English, foreign languages, geology, philosophy and sociology. Minority enrollment is 8%; the out-of-state contingent is 60%.

SOUTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY GEORGETOWN, TEXAS Enrollment: 1,119 Total cost: $9,810 Acceptance rate: 71%

With a Texas-size endowment of $101 million, Southwestern, 30 miles north of Austin, ranks among the top 30 schools nationwide in endowment per student. The financial clout pays off for students because the school can keep tuition costs down and provide generous scholarships (of this year's 300 freshmen, 106 received from $500 to $9,810). Class size averages a luxuriously small 14. Faculty salaries are pegged high to lure and reward top professors. Strong departments are history, music and psychology. Enrollment is 10% Hispanic, 4% black; non-Texans are 14%. About 35% of the seniors attend graduate school.

UNIVERSITY OF PUGET SOUND TACOMA, WASH. Enrollment: 2,739 Total cost: $11,810 Acceptance rate: 79%

Puget Sound, whose students once were known more for their parties than for their intellectual prowess, has reformed with a vengeance. The signal for the turn toward excellence was a curriculum overhaul in 1976 instituting more comprehensive graduation requirements. Today students also are expected to prove their skills in areas such as writing, public speaking and critical thinking. Since 1978, two Puget Sounders have been named Rhodes scholars. An important drawing card for the school is extracurricular: the Pacific and the ski slopes are both two hours away. Freshman orientation includes a three-day retreat with the faculty at a camp on the Olympic Peninsula. Academic strengths are chemistry, economics, history, math and physics. No teaching assistants are used for undergraduate courses. Minorities make up 6% of enrollment; out-of-staters, 34%. Of the seniors, 30% go on to further study.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT IRVINE IRVINE, CALIF. Enrollment: 12,150 Total cost for state residents: $8,398 Total cost for out-of-staters: $12,688 Acceptance rate: 81%

The impressive scale of operations at this 1,500-acre campus, founded in 1960 in a former cow pasture 40 miles south of Los Angeles, could daunt a student looking for small-college intimacy. But compared with two of its UC sister institutions, Berkeley and UCLA, each of which enrolls at least twice as many students, Irvine is navigable indeed. And a student can find a range of opportunities at this major research institution that no small college can match. The sciences are Irvine's specialty. All nine of Irvine's major disciplines, in the sciences as well as the humanities, enable undergraduates to get involved in research projects with their professors and earn credit too. Academic strengths include computer science, economics, engineering and fine arts. Teaching assistants handle 31% of the undergraduate curriculum. About 25% of the seniors go on to further study. The student body is 28% Asian-American, 7% Hispanic and 3% black. Fewer than 1% of the students are formally out-of-staters; many non-Californians, however, spend their freshman year at an in-state junior college to get resident status and then transfer to Irvine.