Best Colleges

To find out which of the nation’s roughly 1,500 four-year colleges offer the most bang for your tuition buck, MONEY screened out those with a below-average graduation rate and then ranked the 665 that remained on 18 factors in three categories: educational quality, affordability, and alumni earnings provided by PayScale.com. (Enrollment, acceptance rate, and H.S. GPA data is for the 2012-2013 academic year, the latest that was available from the Department of Education.) Included: a “value added” grade that rated each college in light of the economic and academic profile of its student body and the mix of majors at that school. We then used a statistical technique to turn all the data points into a single score on a five-point scale and rated them accordingly. These schools went to the head of the class.

Best Colleges
Best Colleges

1. Babson College

Location: Babson Park, MA
Value Grade/Ranking Score: A/4.41
Enrollment: 2,015
Net Price of Degree: $198,917
Acceptance Rate: 29%
Average H.S. GPA: 3.6
Avg. Annual Salary Within 5 Yrs: $59,700
Website: babson.edu
Babson College, Wellesley, MA
Bob O'Connor

Babson specializes in business and entrepreneurship. Although the school offers only one degree—a B.S. in business—half of the students’ course loads are in the liberal arts and sciences. And upperclassmen can choose a “concentration,” akin to a major, in subjects as diverse as literary and visual arts, history and political studies, and environmental sustainability.

Still, the focus on business is the big draw—and provides a big payoff. Students get hands-on experience from the start, launching a business as part of a freshmen team (profits go to charity) and, in later years, through continuing interaction with local companies and via internships. The result of all that real-world learning: Babson alums report earning an average of nearly $60,000 a year within five years of graduation—about $13,000 more than the average for recent grads of comparable schools. Ninety percent graduate within six years, eight points better than similar colleges. And the list of ventures started by alums is impressive, including Gerber, Home Depot, and Zumba Fitness.

The suburban Boston campus draws an international crowd; more than 25% of students come from 70 countries other than the U.S. About half the students play sports (Babson has 22 Division III teams, as well as club and intramural teams). Monthly Knight parties and the annual spring concert, with headliners such as Kesha, also help students blow off steam.

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