America’s Top Colleges 2017 – Forbes

The No. 1 FORBES Top College 2017 is Harvard University, followed by Stanford and Yale. The highest-ranking  public school (nonmilitary) is the University of California, Berkeley; the U.S. Naval Academy is the top military academy. The University of Chicago is the premier institution in the Midwest and Duke University is the best school in the South. 

Harvard University is the gold standard of American higher education. For the first time since we started this annual ranking of the nation’s best universities and colleges ten years ago, Harvard lives up to its reputation and tops the list as the best in the U.S.

Harvard rises to the top spot on our rankings after placing fourth last year and sixth in 2015. The move illustrates a winning performance in each of the four categories that we take into consideration: quality academics and student satisfaction, on-time graduation rates, low student debt and high earning potential and career success.

The nation’s oldest higher education institution attracts some of the brightest and most accomplished students, faculty and professionals from across the globe. The institution graduates 87% of its seniors in four years and 97% in six years, and those graduates see a mid-career median salary of $123,000 and a median debt of some $7,500. A high count of The Forbes 400 billionaires and seven U.S. presidents are Harvard alumni.

See full methodology here

Last year’s No. 1 school, Stanford University, moves to No. 2, followed by Yale University, Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other schools widely considered to be America’s finest still rank high — Duke University (No. 8), Pomona College (No. 10), University of Chicago (No. 16) and Amherst College (No. 17).

There are some surprises here, too: The U.S. Naval Academy (No. 20) edges out the U.S. Military Academy (No. 24), and among flagship state universities, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (No. 38) pushes past University of Virginia (No. 40) in the top 50. And among liberal arts colleges, Harvey Mudd College (No. 18) and Grinnell College (No. 57) rise to the top 9% of all institutions.

See full list of America’s Top Colleges 2017 here

Courtesy of Boston College

Boston College

Important Trends

The FORBES 10th annual Top Colleges ranking speaks directly to four important trends:

The disproportionately high number of Ivy League and other highly selective private coastal schools at the highest rungs.

• The rise of juggernaut STEM and research-oriented universities vs. small prestigious liberal arts colleges.

• In the vast middle of this list, where the bulk of America’s students study, public schools rose overall in the ranks, while their private counterparts took a small hit.

• Strong performances on the part of all the service academies.

Students Are Consumers 

To our way of thinking, before you become a college student, you need to think like a graduate. Our goal is to showcase the colleges and universities that deliver the best return on your education investment dollars.

College may be the best years of your life but they may also be among the most expensive as costs continue to escalate. According to the College Board, tuition, fees, room and board for the 2016-17 school year was $20,090 annually for public schools for in-state students, a rise of 2.7% over 2015-16. It was $35,370 for out-state students and $45,370 for private schools for 2016-17, both up 3.4%. Americans now owe $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, according to The Federal Reserve. It’s been estimated that student loan borrowers from the Class of 2016 hold just north of $37,000 per student on average. 

The central logic behind this year’s ranking is no different than years past, but part of the methodology and some of the data sources have been reexamined and revamped at our 10th anniversary to better align this ranking with what Forbes values most: superior return on investment; leadership and success; and a first-rate student-consumer experience. Because of shifts in the data and weightings, our 2017 ranking looks somewhat different than the past.

STEM or specialized-focus schools fare considerably better this year. The California Institute of Technology makes the top 10 for the first time (No. 6), jumping up 33 spots, and Harvey Mudd College climbs 41 spots (see profile of Harvey Mudd College here). Babson College, which only offers degrees in entrepreneurship, lands at No. 74 (up from No. 104) and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology is No. 116 (up from No. 183).

This ranking continues to favor military academies, which offer a free first-rate education experience in exchange for service. It is, however, not quite as friendly to a host of liberal arts schools, many which unquestionably provide excellent academic rewards and a high sense of purpose and personal satisfaction as well as well-rounded career options.

Important Reminder

America’s Top Colleges is primarily a fiscally minded ranking. It does not speak to what touches a student’s heart: campus atmosphere; size and location; sports and Greek life; family affiliations; and specialized majors and research opportunities. Our best advice is to use this college list as one of several guides, including speaking to current and former students and visiting campuses.

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America’s Top Colleges 2017 – Forbes