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Harvard is famous for the quality of its academics--and infamous for its cost. But a recent report in Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine says an Ivy League education might not be worth the expense.
In a report titled "Private Colleges Worth the Price," Kiplinger's ranked 100 private colleges and universities for value, using criteria that includes admission rate, student/faculty ratio and cost.
Harvard came in at 19, tied with MIT and Carleton College of Minnesota. Dartmouth and Princeton, tied at 12, are the highest ranked Ivy League schools on the list.
Houston's Rice University led the pack, boasting small classes and a high graduation rate along with relatively low tuition and generous financial aid.
"Obviously our results differ from the ones you see in other surveys, like U.S. News and World Report, because we made cost a factor," said Kristin W. Davis, a senior associate editor of Kiplinger's and author of the report.
"We wanted to show who else offers excellent education and does so at a substantially lower price," she said.
Davis said the editors started with a list of 400 schools defined as "competitive" by Peterson's college guides. After dropping state schools, each institution's academic data was scrutinized, and the list was trimmed to 150.
To determine the final 100, editors factored in the full tuition cost for 1998-99, as well as the average costs after need-based aid and merit scholarships.
"Ivies are much more generous with need-based aid for families with lower incomes," Davis explained.
"But for a very good student who can get into a Harvard or a Yale, it's possible they can get a good merit scholarship at another school," she said.
The fact that many of the most competitive schools only offer need-based aid and not merit scholariships pushed Ivy League schools down on the list, Davis said.
Last year, Kiplinger's published a similar report identifying the best values among public colleges and universities. Davis said keeping the reports for public and private institutions separate paints a clear picture.
"We've decided to separate the two because the two have different criteria. They tend to cater to different populations," she said. "For private schools, things like endowment are more important...It didn't make sense to mix the data."
Davis said the ultimate goal of the private school report wasn't to discourage students from shooting for Harvard and Princeton.
"It's not to say they aren't excellent schools, because they are," she said.
Instead, the report is designed to "give families options in deciding where to apply."
"It's possible for [students] to go to a good school at half the cost. It really is a way for families to maximize their options," she said.
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