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

What's Wrong with Princeton Review's Best Value College ListAre the schools that made The Princeton Review's list of the 100 Best Value Colleges for 2010, really great bargains?

Not for everybody. In fact, plenty of the top colleges that The Princeton Review singles out for honors could also earn spots on a list of the nation's most expensive colleges and university.

Many of the students who end up attending these "best value" schools will pay more than $200,000 for their degree. Hardly what I'd call a bargain.

Here's the big problem with the best value college rankings: it's not a one-size-fits-all list. To understand what I'm talking about, let's take a look at the 10 best value private colleges:

  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)
To their credit, these private colleges provide excellent financial aid packages for low and middle-income students, who require a lot of assistance. But for most of these schools, that's where their generosity ends. I am only aware of two schools on the list - Rice and Wesleyan College -- which also give merit scholarships to affluent students.

While stiffing rich kids might seem only fair, most schools in this country provide merit scholarships to these fortunate students. So if cutting the price of college is important to well-off parents, then they need to ignore Princeton Review's "best value" list during their college search.

Here's my other complaint: If you're going to produce a list of the colleges with the best need-based aid packages, why not include schools that truly earn a gold star for their generosity. Why, I wonder, didn't The Princeton Review include Columbia University on its list? Columbia accepts more low-income students than any other private university in the country.

Private colleges that offer great need-based financial aid packages don't have anything to brag about unless they actually admit a meaningful number of students who need the help.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog. Follow me on Twitter.

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