MONEY'S College Value Rankings ! The top 200 schools for your education dollar -- and how we found them

(MONEY Magazine) – If assessing academic quality is tough, trying to calculate a school's value -- its quality relative to price -- is an even more difficult task. But after extensive consultation with educational experts and statisticians, MONEY developed a system to examine all schools and identify the ones that deliver the best education for the buck. Here's how we did it: We used statistical analysis to determine how much each school might be expected to cost, based on 17 measures of academic performance, Iand then we compared that figure to its actual cost. Schools that charged less than their ''expected'' cost scored highly; those that charged more fell in the rankings. We eliminated schools whose performance scores indicated that they provide a below-average education. The top 100 public schools and top 100 private schools are listed on the opposite page. We used performance data that could be compared fairly from school to school. Everyone has his favorite benchmark. Thomas S. Anthony, dean of admission at Colgate, suggested we look at how much money each school devotes to student instruction. James Wickenden, an educational consultant in Princeton, N.J., said that the number of students that go on to get a Ph.D. is a good indicator of the faculty's ability to excite students about the subjects they teach. A number of experts cited the graduation rate as an excellent measure of how good a job the school does in satisfying the needs and demands of its undergraduates. Among the other yardsticks we included in our evaluation: the SAT scores and class rank of incoming freshmen, the student-faculty ratio, and the number of books in the library. Deciding what price to use in our analysis posed another problem. Financial aid can lower the cost of attending college significantly, and often the best schools are also the most generous; at some schools, fewer than half the students pay full price. But not everyone qualifies for aid, and schools may hand out sharply different amounts from year to year, depending on the needs of the students they admit. Another cost complication: at public institutions, tuitions are far lower for state residents than for others. To create the most consistent system for cost comparison, we decided to use the school's full official price, and to use out-of-state charges in the case of public schools. One result of this approach is that a number of the most famous names in higher education -- such as Harvard and Stanford -- did not make our list of 10 best buys, even though their large endowments enable them to offer a great deal of financial aid to qualified students. For students who get such help, of course, those schools are great bargains. Similarly, the public schools we cite are even better deals for residents of those states. But low tuition was not a requirement for making the top 100: while Cooper Union, with its minuscule $300 annual fee, easily topped our private list, Caltech made it all the way to No. 2 with a tuition of $13,495, which makes it more expensive than 75% of the 1,000 colleges described in the tables that start on page 74. We did not consider two-year colleges and those that attract mainly adult students, and we eliminated narrowly specialized and sectarian colleges. We included science centers such as MIT and Caltech, however, because they offer a wide range of undergraduate studies and degrees in addition to the technical training they are known for. We omitted several schools with unique characteristics, most notably the three service academies -- West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy. They offer excellent education at no charge but require graduates to devote at least five years to military service, thereby masking their actual ''cost.'' One cautionary note: While our rankings highlight those colleges providing strong educations at prices that are more than fair, they are by no means intended to be a definitive guide to college choice. When shopping for a school, you will want to consider numerous other criteria, which are discussed in depth elsewhere in this issue.

BOX: Public Schools 1 New College-U. of S. Florida 2 State U. of N.Y.-Geneseo 3 State U. of N.Y.-Binghamton 4 Trenton State 5 State U. of N.Y.-Albany 6 University of Virginia 7 University of Florida 8 U. of N. Carolina-Chapel Hill 9 Jersey City State 10 University of Hawaii-Manoa 11 Texas A&M 12 Montclair State 13 University of Mississippi 14 State U. of N.Y.-Stony Brook 15 Frostburg State 16 U. of Ill.-Urbana-Champaign 17 University of South Dakota 18 Shepherd 19 University of Washington 20 % State U. of N.Y.-Buffalo 21 University of Texas-Austin 22 Indiana U. of Pennsylvania 23 Auburn 24 Rutgers College 25 Ohio University 26 Florida State 27 City College of City U. of N.Y. 28 Mary Washington 29 Shippensburg U. of Pa. 30 Bloomsburg University of Pa. 31 Salisbury State 32 State U. of N.Y.-Potsdam 33 Radford 34 Douglass College-Rutgers 35 University of California-L.A. 36 University of South Florida 37 U. of California-Riverside 38 Kansas State University 39 University of Kentucky 40 University of West Florida 41 Georgia Inst. of Technology 42 Millersville U. of Pennsylvania 43 North Carolina State 44 New Mexico Inst. of Mining 45 Clarion U. of Pennsylvania 46 Purdue 47 University of Kansas 48 U. of Missouri-Columbia 49 U. of Minnesota-Duluth 50 U. of California-Berkeley 51 James Madison 52 University of California-Davis 53 West Virginia University 54 State U. of N.Y.-Oswego 55 Lock Haven University of Pa. 56 State U. of N.Y.-Oneonta 57 State U. of N.Y.-Fredonia 58 University of Georgia 59 U. of Wisconsin-Madison 60 State U. of N.Y.-Plattsburgh 61 William and Mary 62 U. of Minnesota-Morris 63 Virginia Polytechnic 64 Iowa State Science & Tech. 65 Castleton State 66 University of Missouri-Rolla 67 Michigan Technological 68 Western Michigan 69 Clemson 70 University of Iowa 71 Washington State 72 U. of Minnesota-Twin Cities 73 Eastern Illinois 74 University of Arizona 75 University of Connecticut 76 U. of California-San Diego 77 University of Akron 78 Bowling Green State 79 Livingston College-Rutgers 80 University of South Carolina 81 , Michigan State 82 Colorado State 83 Indiana U.-Bloomington 84 Keene State 85 Cook College-Rutgers 86 U. of Calif.-Santa Barbara 87 U. of Maryland-College Park 88 University of Lowell 89 University of Maine 90 Plymouth State 91 University of Delaware 92 Ohio State 93 University of Pittsburgh 94 University of Rhode Island 95 Calif. Poly.-San Luis Obispo 96 U. of California-Santa Cruz 97 University of California-Irvine 98 U. of Colorado-Boulder 99 Penn State 100 VMI

Private Schools 1 Cooper Union 2 California Inst. of Technology 3 Rice 4 Brigham Young 5 Grove City 6 Fisk 7 Alfred 8 Barber-Scotia 9 Hanover 10 Bellarmine 11 Yale 12 Florida Southern 13 Columbia University 14 MIT 15 Hahnemann 16 Baylor 17 University of Tulsa 18 Spelman 19 Meredith 20 Illinois College 21 Miami University (Ohio) 22 Hendrix 23 Wabash 24 Chestnut Hill 25 Wake Forest 26 Centenary of Louisiana 27 Webber 28 Trinity University 29 Duke 30 Incarnate Word 31 St. John's University (N.Y.) 32 St. Mary's of San Antonio 33 University of Dallas 34 Johns Hopkins 35 St. Peter's 36 Atlantic Christian 37 Princeton 38 St. Thomas Aquinas 39 Alvernia 40 GMI Eng. & Mgt. Inst. 41 Davidson 42 Stanford 43 Lake Erie 44 St. Bonaventure 45 John Carroll 46 St. Louis University 47 Westminster (Mo.) 48 Le Moyne 49 La Salle 50 Harvard 51 Mount Marty 52 Marywood 53 Manhattan 54 Nazareth of Rochester 55 Molloy 56 Baker University 57 Centre 58 Rosemont 59 Emory and Henry 60 Marian (Ind.) 61 University of Scranton 62 Fairleigh Dickinson 63 Furman 64 Siena 65 Notre Dame 66 Marquette 67 Harvey Mudd 68 Creighton 69 Pomona 70 Case Western Reserve 71 University of Chicago 72 Barat 73 Notre Dame of Maryland 74 MacMurray 75 Campbell 76 Swarthmore 77 Austin College 78 Birmingham-Southern 79 Mount St. Mary (N.Y.) 80 Fontbonne 81 Mount St. Vincent 82 Misericordia 83 Fordham 84 Bradley University 85 Loras 86 Drury 87 Seton Hill 88 St. Joseph's University (Minn.) 89 Southwestern (Texas) 90 Wesley 91 Guilford 92 King's (Pa.) 93 Prescott 94 St. Olaf 95 Quincy 96 American International 97 University of Detroit 98 D'Youville 99 Texas Christian 100 Elms