Bloomberg News

Swarthmore Among `Best Value' Colleges, Survey Finds

March 28, 2006

Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and University of California, Berkeley are among the top 10 public and private colleges offering the best education for the money, according to a survey by The Princeton Review Inc. (REVU:US)

Swarthmore ranked ninth on the list of private colleges that offer strong academics and financial aid programs, The Princeton Review's ``America's Best Value Colleges'' survey found. University of California, Berkeley ranked ninth among U.S. public universities, according to the survey, which narrowed down its top 10 lists from 150 schools.

Students and parents face climbing college expenses each year as the average four-year private college expenses rose 5.9 percent to $21,235 in 2005-2006, according to the College Board, a New York research organization that produces the SAT test. About 60 percent of U.S. college students receive some form of grant aid to meet their expenses, the College Board said.

``We keep the loan element of our financial aid awards low to leave more room for scholarships,'' Laura Talbot, Swarthmore's director of financial aid, said in a telephone interview yesterday. ``We want to keep students' debt burden manageable.''

Swarthmore charged $41,280 for tuition, fees and room and board this year, according to its Web site.

Bang for the Buck

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, was the best-rated private school, followed by Berea College in Kentucky, which doesn't charge tuition and lets students work a job to defray their instruction cost.

New College of Florida in Sarasota, Florida ranked first among public colleges followed by North Carolina State University in Raleigh, California State University at Long Beach, Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri and University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

Princeton Review selected its lists from a field of 646 institutions in the U.S. that had high academic standards, said Robert Franek, vice president of Princeton Review's book publishing unit, said in a telephone interview.

The company looked at more than 30 factors including academics, students' grade-point average and the size of financial aid packages awarded to students, he said.

``These schools are not necessarily the ones with the lowest price tag, they're the ones that offer the best bang for the buck -- a combination of the best financial aid and the best education,'' Kal Chany, president of Campus Consultants Inc., a New York-based financial aid consultant, said today in a telephone interview. He is the author of the book ``Paying for College Without Going Broke.''

Half Receive Aid

The survey said Berkeley, which charges residents $3,717 for undergraduate tuition and fees and non-residents $12,627, provides need-based aid to 98 percent of all applicants. The university awarded $214 million in aid to Berkeley undergraduates last school year, Richard Black, Berkeley's associate vice chancellor for admissions and enrollment, said.

``We are an excellent investment for any student, particularly for any California student who is coming here,'' Black said in an interview.

Swarthmore was chosen because it ``meets 100 percent of demonstrated need'' of its students, the survey said.

About 50 percent of Swarthmore's 1,461 students receive an average financial aid package of $28,474, Talbot said. About 86 percent of a student's aid package is grant money, 8 percent consists of loan aid and 6 percent is work-study income, she said.

Debt Worries

``We don't want students' decisions about a major or careers to be influenced by worry about debt,'' Talbot said.

The list of top private schools were rounded off by Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana; Hillsdale College in Michigan; University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee; Swarthmore; and Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.

University of North Carolina in Asheville; University of Virginia; Texas A&M University in College Station; Berkeley and University of Oklahoma in Norman made up the second half of the list of public institutions.

``Students don't have to mortgage their future to pay for that undergraduate degree,'' Franek said.

                  America's Best Value Colleges

                              Private

          Name                     Location

1. Brigham Young University        Provo, Utah
2. Berea College                   Berea, Kentucky
3. Roberts Wesleyan College        Rochester, New York
4. Westminster College             Fulton, Missouri
5. Rice University                 Houston, Texas
6. Wabash College                  Crawfordsville, Indiana
7. Hillsdale College               Hillsdale, Michigan
8. University of the South         Sewanee, Tennessee
9. Swarthmore College              Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
10. Earlham College                Richmond, Indiana


                              Public

          Name                     Location

1. New College of Florida          Sarasota, Florida
2. North Carolina State            Raleigh, North Carolina
3. California State, Long Beach    Long Beach, California
4. Truman State                    Kirksville, Missouri
5. University of North Florida     Jacksonville, Florida
6. University of North Carolina    Asheville, North Carolina
7. University of Virginia          Charlottesville, Virginia
8. Texas A&M University            College Station, Texas
9. California, Berkeley            Berkeley, California
10. University of Oklahoma         Norman, Oklahoma

Source: The Princeton Review

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Cole in New York at pcole3@Bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Aimee Sullivan at asullivan@bloomberg.net.


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