Princeton Review Lists Best Value Colleges

By Staff
July 28, 2009

In a nod to the recession, the Princeton Review has included a list of the "100 Best Value Colleges" in its newest edition of "The Best 371 Colleges."

"There's a hyper-focus on financial aid, and the angst around it," said Robert Franek, one of the book's authors, who was quoted on "Students weren't asking as much about financial aid five years ago, when they were asking about quality of life."

The "Value College" list scored institutions based on the amount of scholarship money offered and students' satisfaction with financial aid. Pennsylvania's Swarthmore College received top ratings for student satisfaction with financial aid, as did Stanford University and Harvard. The institutions where students were most dissatisfied with financial aid included New York University, followed by Penn State and Connecticut College.

Franek said that the list was based on academic environment, cost and percentage of students' financial need that was met. Facts about financial aid "is needed information for so many college-bound students and their families," he told USA Today, "but it's tough information to get."

The Princeton Review also listed rankings such as the Top Party School--Pennsylvania State University; and Top Stone-Cold Sober School--Utah's Brigham Young University. Colgate University in New York took top honors as the most beautiful campus, Virginia Tech had the best rated campus food while Smith College in Massachusetts had the best dormitories. The rankings were based on surveys of 122,000 students at 371 schools in the book.

But Annemarie Mountz, a spokeswoman for Penn State, dismissed the accuracy of the rankings. "This survey doesn't have any bearing one way of the other," she told Inside Higher Ed. She noted an average of 325 students from each school responded to the survey--less than 1 percent of the total population at Penn State.

Franek argued that the book is geared towards students, not administrators. "We get a certain amount of attention for our party school rankings," he said, "and I think it's important that college-bound students should know if there is an unapologetically active social system at Penn State."

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