MONEY College

The Important Talk Parents Are Not Having With Their Kids

College tuition jar
Alamy

The new Fidelity College Savings Indicator survey reveals that parents are only on track to pay a third of college tuition—and that they're keeping mum on the topic.

Moms and dads expect their children to pay for more than one-third of college costs—but only 57% of parents actually have that conversation with their kids, according to a new study out by Fidelity today.

The cost of college has more than doubled in the past decade, and parents are having a hard time saving for it, Fidelity’s 8th annual College Savings Indicator study shows. While 64% of parents say they’d like be able to cover their kids total college costs, only 28% are on track to do so.

That jibes with reality: For current students, parents’ income and savings now only cover one-third of college costs on average, according to Sallie Mae’s recently released report How America Pays For College. Kids use 12% of their own savings and income. Loans taken by students and parents account for 22% of the funds, while another 30% comes from grants and scholarships.

Experts urge parents to have a frank conversation well in advance with their children about how much college costs and how much they are expected to contribute, either through summer jobs, their own savings or part-time jobs while in school. “If children know that they are expected to contribute to their college funds, they are more likely to save for it,” says Judith Ward, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price.

A T. Rowe Price study released earlier this week found that 58% of kids whose parents frequently talk to them about saving for college put away money for that goal vs. just 23% who don’t talk to their parents about how to pay for school.

There’s also reason to believe that parents shouldn’t feel so bad about not being able to take on the full tab. A national study out last year found that the more money parents pay for their kids’ college educations, the worse their kids tend to perform. In her paper “More Is More or More is Less? Parent Financial Investments During College,” University of California sociology professor Laura Hamilton found that larger contributions from parents are linked to lower grades among students.

Apparently, kids who don’t work or otherwise use their own money to pay for school spend more time on leisure activities and are less focused on studying. It’s not that these kids flunk out, according to Hamilton. She found that students with parental funding often perform well enough to stay in school, but they just dial down their academic efforts.

Given all these findings, parents should feel less pressure pay the full ride for their kids—especially if it means falling behind on other important goals like saving for their own retirement. “Putting your kids on the hook for college costs is better for everyone,” says Ward.

MONEY 101: How much does college actually cost?

MONEY 101: Where should I save for college?

TIME Internet

The New Science of Pairing College Roommates

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Students Working Together Moving Dormitory on University Campus YinYang—Getty Images

At one school using the new app RoomSync, roommate approval was up 40 percent

This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Eight years ago, when Robert Castellucci worked for a housing complex at the University of Florida, his main job was to pair roommates based on a few simple lifestyle questions. But what had once been a straightforward task – matching smokers with smokers, separating early risers from night owls – was getting difficult thanks to social media. “We’d get 30, 40, 50 calls a day asking for a new roommate based on their Facebook profile,” he says. “They didn’t get the roommates they wanted, and I couldn’t get my job done.”

(MORE: Before Belle Knox: 8 College Sex Scandals That Got ‘Extra’ Curricular)

So in 2009, Castellucci launched RoomSync, a Facebook app where students fill out a finely tuned questionnaire. An algorithm suggests possible dormmates, and students themselves get to decide whose dirty underwear they’ll be stepping over for the next two semesters.

More than 60 schools now use RoomSync, with promising results. At New Mexico State, 50 percent of students used to ask to switch roommates the school chose for them. But among students using the app, that number dropped to 10 percent, according to Julie Weber, director of housing. RoomSync user GPAs were .25 points higher, at 3.05, and their re-enrollment was up 6.6 percent, to 96 percent.

(MORE: Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth’s Hazing Abuses)

For decades, universities believed that acclimating to the quirks of a complete stranger was an essential part of college. That’s still the case at schools like NYU and Stanford, where the 1,700 incoming freshmen are hand-paired by two upperclassmen. “Education’s about putting people in uncomfortable situations so they start to learn about themselves,” says NYU housing head Thomas Ellett. “[Programs like RoomSync] are a good customer-service tool, but there’s a big difference between customer service and education.”

(MORE: 50 Things Millennials Know That Gen-Xers Don’t)

But in the past half-decade, universities have moved to more modern systems – by 2012, about 70 percent allowed incoming freshmen to select roommates, according to one informal survey. Besides RoomSync, there are similar programs like Roomsurf and RoommateFit; some schools have proprietary systems, like Oregon State, which lets incoming freshmen use a school-only social network to choose future bunkmates.

But as all are quick to admit, one reason these programs work so well is that students are less likely to complain when they get to pick their own roommate. “That way, they are more invested in who they have selected,” says Weber. “They can’t blame us for it.”

(MORE: In Pics: Millennials’ Most Earth-Shaking Sexual Moments)

 

MONEY College

5 Signs Your College is in Serious Financial Trouble

Academic building with "Going out of Business" sign on door
Gregory Olsen/Getty Images—iStock (sign)

An increasing number of schools are unable to balance their books. Make sure yours is not one of them.

When Corinthian Colleges Inc. agreed in July to sell off or close nearly all of its 107 campuses, it left 72,000 students wondering about their futures—and whether they should have seen the writing on the wall.

Today, with more colleges and universities than ever having trouble making ends meet, experts are urging students to pay closer attention to warning signs. “In this day and age, when there’s so much at risk, it doesn’t hurt to do some legwork and investigate,” says Mike Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).

When colleges close, students face the wrenching process of having to find another place to continue their higher educations, often in the middle of semesters; plus, they may wind up tangled in the red tape of student loan paperwork and the often unsuccessful effort to transfer academic credits. If credits won’t transfer—and they often don’t—those students face the prospect of repeating course work they’ve already completed, which prolongs the time they spend in college and the amount it costs them. Alumni, meanwhile, see the value of their hard-won degrees decline.

Measures to protect students take different forms, depending on the nature of the school. A for-profit college like Corinthian, for example, must disclose serious issues to investors and the federal government. In January, Corinthian filed a regulatory report acknowledging that the federal government was preparing legal action against the company.

“But colleges are very far down the vortex of the funnel by the time problems are publicly acknowledged,” Reilly says.

So you’ll want to keep up with the early warning signs. Here are five to watch for:

1. The accreditors are circling. Most reputable colleges and universities are overseen by regional accreditors, which keep an eye on schools’ academic and financial health.

When City College of San Francisco’s budget fell apart, for instance, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, stepped in and ordered the community college to close. That decision is on hold while a court battle proceeds.

Accreditors give schools several rounds of warnings before taking the rare step of ordering them to close. It’s important for students to know the difference between an early warning and more serious sanctions, says Mary Ellen Petrisko, president of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which accredits four-year schools in California and Hawaii and other Pacific islands.

“Students should not panic when they see there’s some sort of challenge to the institution,” Petrisko says. “Institutions go through challenges all the time.”

Accreditors like WASC post warnings and other actions after each meeting. The documents can be helpful for students who want to keep track of their schools’ financial health.

2. The credit rating agencies are raising flags. Another resource to pay attention to is the credit-rating agencies, such as Moody’s, which warn bond investors about at-risk schools. Among the schools that have failed Moody’s smell test is New York’s Yeshiva University, which was downgraded to junk-bond status after a series of financial problems.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander,Yeshiva’s vice president for university and community life, says some students had expressed concerns about their financial aid. But he added that there was no threat to scholarships or academics.

3. The D.O.E. gives the school poor marks. The U.S. Department of Education also provides a measure of schools’ financial strength through its annual “financial responsibility composite scores,” on which a score of less than 1.0 indicates problems.

4. There’s talk of a merger. Several colleges and universities have tried to stave off extinction by merging with other schools. Some mergers work out, but others fail and leave students marooned and without transferrable credits.

A merger “to me seems like a very tenuous strategy,” AACRAO’s Reilly says. “That seems like a trigger in my mind. I’d get a copy of my official transcripts at that point.”

5. The administration won’t come clean. Students at shaky colleges should press their student leaders to keep a close eye on the school’s future, says Reilly. A school that is confident it’s on the right track should have no trouble communicating details to students, he adds.

“One of the things is for students to look at whether an institution is being realistic about its future,” Reilly says. “Once a school closes, your options become a little more limited. I would start asking questions about what the plan is for the institution. If they’re doing nothing but making assurances to students, I’d be concerned.”

This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education-news outlet affiliated with Teachers College, Columbia University.

Related stories:
Higher education is headed for a shakeout, analysts warn
Colleges keep increasing discounts to keep students coming
Needing revenue, old universities open new campuses
Private, for-profit colleges see unaccustomed setbacks

MONEY Saving

Why Parents Should Procrastinate on Back-to-School Shopping

School supplies arranged in clock face formation
iStock

If you've been a slacker thus far in rounding up your kid's back-to-school supplies, there's good reason to keep on procrastinating.

The simple reason why this is so is that very soon, almost every store will be putting kids’ scissors, notebooks, glue, pencils, and other back-to-school merchandise on clearance. For that matter, clothing marketed for the back-to-school season will be deeply discounted starting around Labor Day as well if not sooner, in order to make space for the next big seasons for retailers—Halloween and Christmas.

Don’t tell your kids about this, especially not at the start of the school year when homework and exams are about to become painful realities, but the truth is that sometimes it pays to sit back and do nothing. Many consumers are utilizing this “strategy” this summer, though it’s unclear whether they’re doing so consciously—or, more likely, lazily and obliviously. The Integer Group estimated that more than half of shoppers wait until one to three weeks before school starts to buy school supplies, and that 36% of consumers won’t do any back-to-school shopping at all, up from 31% who skipped back-to-school purchases last year.

The most prudent, responsible, cost-conscious approach for back-to-school shopping is for a parent to dutifully browse for bargains throughout the summer and scoop them up when they’re optimal. Back-to-school promotions started even before the previous school year ended, and Staples, Walmart, dollar stores, and other retailers have periodically rolled out 1¢ folders, 25¢ rulers and protractors, and other loss-leader sales in order to rev up business. For that matter, truly savvy shoppers understand that kids tend to need more or less the same supplies every fall, so they strategically snatch up pencils, notebooks, and whatnot whenever they’re at rock-bottom prices throughout the year.

The ship has sailed on the chance to do the prudent thing and buy items whenever the optimal price appears. That approach is too time-consuming and requires too much attention for the average parent anyway. This late in the game, there are two options left: 1) Turn into a whirling dervish and hit one store to buy everything your student needs in the few days before school starts; or 2) make do with what you have for the first day of school, then complete your kids’ list sometime around Labor Day.

The first option is the more responsible one, of course, and ensures that your child will have all of the required supplies on time. Yet the Integer study found that price is the most important element in back-to-school purchases for roughly three-quarters of consumers, and with this first approach, shoppers will wind up paying more than is necessary for many school staples.

That leaves us with the second (slacker) option, which is attractive not only because you can do nothing for a little while longer, but also because of a bonus in the form of saving a bundle of money. By the time Labor Day arrives, the majority of what you need to buy will likely be marked down for clearance sales. You’ll get the cheaper prices on glue, notebooks, and such without having to shop around, monitor Sunday circulars, or hit multiple stores. All in all, you’ll save time, effort, and money, with the main tradeoff being that your kid might get dirty looks from the teacher if he shows up on the first day of school with an empty backpack—or perhaps no backpack.

“Like most seasonal items, the longer you wait to buy back-to-school items, the better your chances are of scoring a significant discount,” said Lindsay Sakraida, features director at the deal-tracking site dealnews.com. Normally, clearance aisles are a hodgepodge of random, undesirable leftovers, but this isn’t the case for basics like pens, notebooks, and calculators, which are more or less immune to trends and seasonality, said Sakraida. “While sorting through the clearance section can sometimes yield limited options, it’s less of an issue with school supplies, making this an even more appealing option for cash-strapped back-to-schoolers.”

She suggested starting to look for big back-to-school markdowns a few days before Labor Day weekend. Around that time a year ago, Staples and Office Max cut prices dramatically on many items, sometimes with discounts of more than 75%. Other retailers will surely be posting printable coupons good for 20% or 25% your entire purchase over the holiday weekend, said Sakraida.

And prices will only drop from there as retailers try to clear shelf space to prep for the next season’s goods. In terms of fall clothing and school supplies alike, “look for the deals to get pretty aggressive by mid-September,” NPD retail analyst Marshal Cohen told the Wall Street Journal.

Even if your kids are fully outfitted for this school year by then, it might be wise to hit the clearance section and round up some supplies for next fall. You know prices will be cheap. And perhaps by planning ahead you’ll show your children that even the laziest procrastinators can change their ways and become more responsible.

More Back-to-School advice:
Would You Spend $60 for Your Kid’s Lunchbox?
Parents Worry More About Back-to-School Shopping Than Bullying
4 Best Credit Cards for College Students

TIME Saving & Spending

One (More) Shocking Way Colleges Are Ripping Off Kids

Marking up movie theater popcorn is one thing, but jacking the price of a laptop by more than 100% is another, especially when the would-be buyers are college kids. As students get ready to head to campus, college stores are making laptop shopping a buyer-beware endeavor.

An investigation by DealNews.com found that college bookstores hike prices on the laptops and tablets they sell by an average of 35% over the regular sale prices of retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Staples. DealNews looked at prices for the cheapest tablets and laptops, plus the most expensive laptops, available at the online stores of five public and one private college, then compared those to back-to-school deals offered by other retailers on identical or very similar machines.

Not every single one is a rip-off, but more than two-thirds are, and some of the markups are pretty egregious.

DealNews finds that the University of Virginia sells a first-generation iPad mini for a staggering 135% more than the $199 sale price the site found on more than one occaision over the summer. The $469 price the campus store is charging is so high that even if you wanted to buy the newer model iPad mini, you could get it straight from Apple for $70 less.

As a matter of fact, if you’re a college kid (or the parent of one), you should probably just steer clear of the campus store entirely if you’re looking for electronics.

“Another example that stood out… were these headphones,” says DealNews’ Louis Ramirez. Although they cost $130 on Amazon, the University of Berkeley Student Store slaps a $49 markup on top of that.

We found other examples in just a cursory browsing of the sites supplied by DealNews, so it’s likely this just scratches the surface of a bigger issue in electronics markups.

One school site is selling a 32G Sandisk USB thumb drive for about $45. Wal-Mart sells the same model for less than $17. A wireless mouse sold by one school for just under $30 sells for half that amount at Office Depot. One Dell laptop “deal” on a school site was no cheaper than the price on Dell’s own website, and two schools’ “sale” prices on iPads are still $30 more than you’d pay at Wal-Mart.

College stores’ problems with electronics sales don’t end with the inflated prices, says Ramirez. While some schools sell up-to-date technology, the site’s investigation found that “others were selling older previous-generation tech at current-generation pricing,” he says. If you think you’re getting a deal, make sure to clarify the model — you could be paying top dollar for last year’s closeout.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that “student discount” translates to the best deal. Just like regular prices, you have to shop around because all student discounts aren’t created equal. “Campus stores aren’t the only retailers that offer student promos,” Ramirez says. As long as you have an active student account (one that ends in .edu), a number of other retailers offer discounts.

MONEY College

4 Best Credit Cards for College Students

Mom helping her daughter move in to college dorm
Make sure she's packed one of these cards. Blend Images—Alamy

Send your kid off with one of these options this fall, and you'll sleep better at night.

You’ve no doubt heard harrowing stories of college students applying for their first credit cards, then racking up thousands of dollars in debt. It’s the stuff of parents’ worst nightmares.

The CARD Act of 2009 lessened the potential trouble students could get themselves into. The law mandated that, in order to qualify for a card, applicants must be over 21, get an adult to co-sign or prove they earn enough money to make payments.

But it’s left many parents of underclassmen with a tricky decision. Do you sign on the dotted line for your kid—thus putting your own credit score on the hook if your kid doesn’t pay the bill?

Shielding Junior from having his own credit card may seem sensible, but it’s penny-wise and pound-foolish. Length of credit history accounts for 15% of one’s FICO score. So by protecting your son or daughter from plastic, you are inadvertently hurting his or her creditworthiness. You also miss out on the opportunity to handhold him or her through an important financial lesson.

Of course, striking a proper balance between the value of credit and the dangers of its excess is paramount. Revolving debt hurts a credit score, too, and can be very costly to a kid living on a ramen budget—with APRs averaging 15% and as high as 23%.

Three options for you to consider, depending upon how much risk you think your newly emancipated child can handle:

The Training Wheels: A secured card or a low-rate, low-limit unsecured card.

If you are worried that terms like “credit limit” and “due date” will be lost on your child, you might want to sign him up for a secured card, which uses cash as the credit limit collateral.

The benefit is that Junior won’t be able to spend beyond the cap, so it’s a good way to give him practice using a card of his own without doing a lot of damage to your finances or your credit score. The downsides: You’ll have to front the cash. And unless you set a large credit limit, he may use a high percentage of his available credit, which is bad for his credit score (ideally he should use no more than 20%).

Alternately, if you don’t want to put up your cash as collateral—or your kid has enough income to qualify on his own—you might start him off with an unsecured card that has a low rate and a low credit limit. This also pens him in until he demonstrates reliability.

Once he proves himself able to handle either of these cards, have him shift to one of the advanced cards in the next category.

The picks: MONEY’s Best Credit Cards winners Digital Credit Union Visa Platinum Secured or Northwest Federal Credit Union FirstCard Visa Platinum.

The APR on Digital Credit Union’s Visa starts at a low 11.5%. To apply for this secured card, you do have to be a member of the credit union, but that be accomplished with a $10 donation to Reach Out for Schools.

The FirstCard’s rate is even lower—a fixed 10% APR (most cards today are variable rate). This card, which has no annual fee, is designed for people who don’t have a credit history: It requires applicants to take a 10 question quiz on credit knowledge and has a credit limit of just $1,000.

The 10 Speed: A rewards card

Cards that offer rewards typically have higher APRs than those that don’t. So if you child revolves debt on one of these cards, he’ll likely erase the perks earned.

Thus, rewards cards are best reserved for those students who’ve already proven themselves capable of paying off a secured or low-limit card in full and on time for a year or so. These are also good choices for those students who are over 21.

The picks: Capital One Journey Student Rewards Card and Discover It for Students.

The no-fee Journey gets your kid 1% cash back on everything, but the reward is bumped up by 25% every month he pays his bill on time. “This is a good card for incentivizing students to have the right behavior,” says NerdWallet.com’s Kevin Yuann. There’s no foreign transaction fee (a plus for those studying abroad), but a late payment fee of up to $35 and a steep 19.8% APR should scare away parents who aren’t sure about their child’s bill-paying vigilance.

The It, which also has no annual fee and no foreign transaction costs, gets your kid 2% cash back on the first $1,000 at gas stations and restaurants each quarter, and 1% for everything else. Because of the extra rewards for gas, the It is a good card for commuters, says Yuann. Cardholders also receive a free FICO score, derived from TransUnion data, on monthly statements.

While there is no fee on the first late payment, your child will pay up to $35 after that; and after a six-month no-interest window, the APR ranges from 13% to 22%.

Whichever card you end up co-signing for your child, definitely make sure you ask to get account access—and sign up for balance alerts so that you know when you need to swoop in for a teaching moment.

RELATED:
Best Credit Cards of 2013
Money 101: How Do I Pick a Credit Card?

 

TIME Civil Rights

Howard University Students Stand Up for Michael Brown in Viral Photo

Howard Dont Shoot Ferguson
Howard University students pose with their hands raised in Cramton Auditorium in Washington on Aug. 13, 2014. Howard University

300 students got involved

An image of Howard University students standing up in protest against the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. went viral on Wednesday.

More than 300 students gathered in Cramton Auditorium on Howard University’s campus in Washington D.C. to stand together, hands raised, in a pose inspired by the presumed stance of the unarmed teen killed by a police officer last weekend. The incident has led to violent protests in the St. Louis suburb, and inspired a national conversation about race and policing.

The shooting also hit close to home in the Howard University community—a recent alum and St. Louis native, Mya White, was allegedly shot in the head on Tuesday during protests in the St. Louis town. The wounds were non-fatal and White is recovering, but the incident has resonated across the Washington D.C. campus. Vice President of the Howard University Student Association, and one of the photos organizers, Ikenna Ikeotuonye told TIME Thursday, he believes White’s injury sparked a sense of urgency among the student body.

“Howard has a history of social justice, inspiring social change,” Ikeotuonye, a senior chemical engineering major said. “Our idea was just to organize something—but the fact that there was a Bison hurting for protesting hit close to home.”

The image spread rapidly on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram Wednesday night, driven by hashtags including #dontshootus, #dontshootme, and #HowardU.

The post came as violent clashes between police and protesters escalated Wednesday night. A heavily militarized police force fired tear gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets into crowds as protestors lobbed Molotov cocktails and rocks at police. At least 10 people were arrested.

MONEY Jobs

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People on the streets of New York City tell our Mannes on the Street about their best and worst summer jobs.

TIME Gadgets

Now You Can Tour Colleges Using a Virtual Reality Headset

Virtual keggers aren't quite the same though

For those unable or unwilling to travel halfway across the country at huge expense for a college tour, there might be an answer. Virtual tour firm YouVisit now allows you to take virtual college tours using Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset bought by Facebook for $2 billion earlier this year.

The technology tracks the user’s eye movements and allows them to see entire rooms from the ceiling to the floor, as if they are actually there.

YouVisit CTO, Taher Baderkhan, said “Our mission, from the day we started the company, is making the campus visit more attainable to students.”

Related:

MONEY’s Best Colleges

MONEY’s Best Colleges That You Can Actually Get Into

MONEY College

How Does Your School Really Match Up to Its Rival?

Left: University of North Carolina Tarheels fans.  Right: Duke University Blue Devils fans.
Left: University of North Carolina Tarheels fans. Right: Duke University Blue Devils fans. These same-state rivals end up in close proximity on our rankings list as well. (left) Margaret Bowles/Southcreek Global/ZUMApress.com—Alamy; (right) Lance King—Getty Images

You know who dominates on the playing field. Now see which schools are the victors when it comes to providing the most value for your money, based on MONEY's Best Colleges ranking.

College rivalries are usually played out on the football field or the basketball court—or, in some cases, the research lab. In the game of life, though, winners and losers are sometimes counted in dollars and cents, rather than points on a scoreboard. MONEY’s Best Colleges rankings evaluated some 665 schools on 18 separate measures of educational quality, affordability, and alumni career earnings. Here’s how 10 pairs of classic rivals did in head-to-head matchups.

 

The Match-Up: Alabama vs. Auburn
The University of Alabama holds the lead in what some have called the greatest football rivalry in college sports, with 42 Iron Bowl wins vs. 35 for Auburn University. But the Tigers crush the Crimson Tide on a variety of financial measures. The average net price of a degree at Auburn (ranked No. 183 on our list) is around $100,000, or about $13,000 less than the price of Alabama (No. 409). (Our net price calculation represents the estimated total cost of attendance from freshman year through graduation—including tuition, room, board, books, fees, and other incidentals—taking into account all scholarships and grants from the school, inflation, and the average time it takes students to graduate.) Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide lives up to its name, with graduates leaving the school substantially more in the red. Alabama students graduate owing about $25,000 (including private loans), compared with less than $10,000 for the typical Tiger. Yet Alabama’s higher debt doesn’t pay off in higher salaries, as Auburn grads report pull in about $4,000 more a year on average than the typical Alabama alum.
The Winner: AUBURN

The Match-Up: Berkeley vs. Stanford
In Big Game match-ups between these longtime Bay Area rivals, No. 5 Stanford has a clear edge (59-46-11). But when assessing which university offers students the best educational value, the winner is less clear-cut. As a state school, the University of California at Berkeley (No. 13 in the overall rankings and No. 2 among public schools) is substantially cheaper to attend, with an estimated net price of a degree ($126,800) that’s more than $40,000 below what the typical student pays to attend Stanford. Yet generous financial aid policies allow Stanford grads to emerge with less than half as much debt as Berkeley students. And while Stanford grads report earning a few thousand more a year over the course of their careers, alumni of both schools make substantially more than average—and more than would be predicted given the economic and academic profile of students who go there. Berkeley’s “value added” grade is a stellar A-minus, while Stanford gets a B-plus.
The Winner: IT’S A TIE

The Match-Up: Caltech vs. MIT
The simmering rivalry between these two top science and engineering schools is traditionally played out in pranks rather than on a sports field. The latest: At an event for prospective students earlier this year, Caltechies handed out mugs that featured the MIT logo when cold but, when filled with hot liquid, changed to read, “Caltech: The Hotter Institute of Technology.” As for which school is the better value, MIT (No. 3 in our rankings) costs the typical student about $20,000 less than Caltech (No. 10) after factoring in aid. Still, alums from both schools go on to earn an average salary of more than $68,000 annually within five years of graduation—among the highest salaries reported by students of any of the colleges in our rankings.
The Winner: MIT, by a nose

The Match-Up: Duke vs. UNC
These same-state private-public school rivals end up in close proximity on our rankings list as well, with Duke at No. 32 and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill landing at No. 40. As a state school, UNC is considerably cheaper to attend, with an estimated average net price of a degree of just $84,000, almost half what it costs to attend Duke (net price of a degree: $192,800). But Duke students tend to earn considerably more, with a gap that widens from early to mid-career, according to the salary figures that alums of both schools report to Payscale.com, our earnings data supplier. Meanwhile, both schools get an impressive grade of A-minus on our value-added measures, which look at how well an institution helps its graduates exceed expectations, given the academic and economic profile of the student body.
The Winner: IT’S A TIE

The Match-Up: Florida vs. Georgia
These southern schools have been fighting hard on the football field for nearly 100 years, maybe more (there’s disagreement over when the rivalry began). The Georgia Bulldogs have won more games but the Florida Gators top them on our financial measures. University of Florida, ranked No. 28 on MONEY’s Best Colleges list and seventh among public schools, charges the typical student less to get a degree (around $87,000 vs. roughly $100,000 at Georgia), according to our calculations. That enables attendees to graduate with less debt (average amount owed: $7,000 vs. $10,000). And Florida students also tend to earn somewhat higher salaries, about $3,000 more a year, early in their careers. Take note, Bulldogs: Georgia’s top 100 showing—the school came in at No. 62 overall and No. 17 on the best public colleges list—is still impressive, putting it among the best values in the country.
The Winner: FLORIDA

The Match-Up: Georgetown vs. Syracuse
To the delight of fans, the competition between these two basketball powerhouses, on hold since Syracuse left the Big East Conference for the ACC in 2013, resumes next year, with the recent announcement of annual games scheduled for four years starting in the 2015-16 season. The Orange holds the edge on the court (‘Cuse has won 49 of the 90 meetings between the two teams), but in MONEY college rankings metrics, it’s a slam-dunk for the Hoyas. Despite having one of the highest net price tags on our list at $204,480 (partly due to the high cost of living in the nation’s capital, where the school is located), the average Georgetown student borrows just over $7,100 to get an undergraduate degree—that’s a third of the amount the typical Syracuse student owes (average debt on graduation: $21,450). And Georgetown students tend to earn more after they graduate too—$53,000 on average vs. $47,700 for Syracuse alum. That helps explains why Georgetown landed at No. 37 in our rankings, while Syracuse, at No. 246, failed to crack the top third.
The Winner: GEORGETOWN

The Match-Up: Harvard vs. Yale

Harvard (ranked sixth overall in our rankings) and Yale (No. 15) cost nearly the same amount to attend on average, according to MONEY’s estimated net price of a degree: $181,200 for Harvard, $182,800 for Yale. Yet alums from Cambridge earn about $55,300 within the first five years of graduations, or about $5,000 more than the New Haven crowd. That may help explain Harvard’s special allure for prospective students. Some 84% of applicants admitted to Harvard enrolled in the university for the 2012-13 academic year (the most recent stats available from the Department of Education when we collected the data earlier this year), vs. 64% of admitted applicants who choose to attend Yale.
The Winner: HARVARD

The Match-Up: Michigan vs. Ohio State
Go Blue: At $94,500, the average net price of a degree from the University of Michigan (No. 22 overall and No. 5 among public colleges) is about $10,000 less than the roughly $105,000 cost of a BA from Ohio State University (No. 144), according to our estimates. Plus, Wolverines typically graduate with less debt and earn about $8,000 more a year over the course of their careers than Buckeyes. In this face-off, Michigan scores a touchdown.
The Winner: MICHIGAN

The Match-Up: Notre Dame vs. USC
Often called the greatest intersectional rivalry in college football, Notre Dame and the University of Southern California have combined to produce more national titles, Heisman trophy winners, All-Americans, and future NFL Hall of Famers than any other college football rivals. While the two schools are tied in the number of national titles each has won and Heisman trophy winners they’ve produced, the Fighting Irish lead their football series, with 45 wins in 85 meetings. And they beat the Trojans in many of MONEY’s key measures as well, though not by a wide margin. Notre Dame is a little less expensive (estimated net price of a degree: around $184,500 vs. $192,000 for USC), grads earn a little more ($54,000 a year early in their careers vs. about $51,000 for USC alums) and come out with a lot less debt, on average (about $5,600 for Notre Dame, compared with $15,500 for USC). That helps explain why, although both schools are highly ranked, more than 100 spots separate Notre Dame (No. 20) and USC (No. 129) on our list.
The Winner: NOTRE DAME

The Match-Up: Oklahoma vs. Texas
The University of Texas at Austin holds the lead in the annual Red River Showdown between the Sooners and the Longhorns, and has an edge off the football field as well. The flagship school at Austin is ranked No. 53 on our list (and No. 17 among public colleges), while Oklahoma-Norman comes in at No. 122. That’s still a high enough ranking for Sooners to brag about being one of the country’s top college values but not quite good enough to beat their old rival, which despite a somewhat higher price tag, produces graduates who emerge with less debt ($11,200, on average for UT grads vs. $13,200 for Oklahoma students) and go on to earn slightly higher salaries ($50,400 a year on average in the first five years of their careers vs. $47,700 reported by Oklahoma alums).
The Winner: TEXAS

See more of Money’s Best Colleges:
The 25 Most Affordable Colleges
The 25 Colleges That Add the Most Value
The 25 Best Colleges That You Can Actually Get Into

 

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