The University of Michigan: No. 2 on MONEY's list, No. 24 on the Wall Street Journal's.
Dave Lauridsen for MONEY
By Kim Clark
September 28, 2016

The Wall Street Journal’s new college rankings, which focus on student experience and alumni success (after accounting for the student body’s demographics), give the highest marks to many “elite” private colleges.

Because the Journal doesn’t take tuition prices or generosity of financial aid into consideration, however, some of the schools on its list do less well in MONEY’s best value analysis. MONEY ranks colleges on a combination of educational quality, affordability, and alumni success. MONEY also adjusts some the success measures for the demographics of each school’s student body.

Cornell University, for example, is ranked as the 9th best college in the country by the Journal. MONEY, however, ranks it 64th, in part because its financial aid appears to be less generous than that of its peers. About half of its students receive aid, and the average net price paid by those who do is about $30,000.

That’s more than the full sticker price paid by in-state students who attend the University of Michigan, which the Journal ranks as the 24th best college in the country. MONEY ranks Michigan as the country’s 2nd best value college because it offers high quality at a reasonable price. Almost half of Michigan students get aid that allows them to pay less than full price, and the average in-state student who receives aid pays only about $16,000 a year.

Because MONEY puts a third of its rankings’ weight on affordability factors, many public colleges—especially in California, Virginia, Texas, and Florida—tend to score highly.

And the private colleges that score well on MONEY’s rankings tend to be very affordable. Three elite private colleges appear on both rankings’ top 10: Princeton University, which MONEY ranked as the No. 1 best value college in the country in 2016, awards aid to about 60% of its students, and the average net price those students pay is just about $19,000. It was ranked 8th in the country by the Journal. Stanford and Harvard also score in the top 10 on both publication’s lists.

MONEY also awards a high rank to Cooper Union, a prestigious private art, design, architecture, and engineering school in New York City that offers every student a scholarship that covers at least half of tuition. The Journal does not rank schools with fewer than 1,000 students. (MONEY’s cutoff is a minimum of 500 undergraduates.)

Here is how the Journal’s top 10 colleges do on MONEY’s value rankings.

WSJ College MONEY
1 Stanford University 10
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 11
3 Columbia University 52
4 University of Pennsylvania 26
5 Yale University 12
6 Harvard University 3
7 Duke University 39
8 Princeton University 1
9 Cornell University 64
10 California Institute of Technology 24

And here are MONEY’s top 10 colleges and how the Journal ranks them:

MONEY College WSJ
1 Princeton University 8
2 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 24
3 Harvard University 6
4 Rice University 18
5 Brigham Young University-Provo 103
5 University of California-Berkeley 37
7 Amherst College 23
8 Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art NR
9 University of Virginia-Main Campus 56
10 Stanford University 1

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