When it comes to which of the nation’s colleges and universities offer the most bang for the tuition buck, Elmhurst College ranks near the top, according to a new Best Colleges list released Monday by Money magazine.
The magazine’s newly minted system ranks Elmhurst at Number 166. That places the College among the top 7% of the 2,472 four-year colleges and universities in the United States. By a wide margin, Elmhurst ranks the highest among the small private colleges and universities in Illinois. The College also outranks a number of larger competitors, including some of the biggest and best-known schools in the state.
Some elements of the rankings, such as average class size and the rate at which students stay in college and graduate, are similar to rankings done by U.S. News & World Report and others.
But the Money list pays special attention to the financial considerations that factor heavily into the college selection process for most students and parents—what it will cost to earn a diploma, and the value of that diploma when it comes to landing a job.
Money evaluated 1,500 four-year colleges using a variety of factors in three equally weighted categories: educational quality, affordability and alumni career earnings. The rankings also include a “value added” grade that rates each college in light of the economic and academic profile of its student body and the mix of majors offered at that school.
The educational quality category considers graduation rates, the standardized test scores of incoming freshmen, student/faculty ratios and instructor quality, among other things.
The affordability category considers the “net price” of a degree, or the estimated amount a typical freshman starting in 2014 will pay to earn a degree, minus discounts and scholarships, and multiplied by the number of years it takes students at each college to graduate. It also factors in how much borrowing and debt the students and parents take on, and the student loan default risk for that college.
At Elmhurst, the list price for tuition and fees is $32,920. As is the practice at most private colleges and universities, however, the vast majority of Elmhurst students pay far less than the list price because they qualify for generous federal, state and college scholarships and grants. Last year, after deducting such awards, the average Elmhurst undergraduate paid around 40% of the list price. Also, the average debt load for recent Elmhurst graduates is 13 percent less than the national average for private colleges. It is comparable to what many students borrow to attend a public university.
Probably the most distinctive category in the Money magazine rankings is alumni career earnings, or outcomes. Money evaluates each college based on graduates’ early and mid-career earnings (after five and 10 years), as reported to the website Payscale.com. Money also calculates separate scores that adjust for each college’s demographics and mix of academic majors. Elmhurst College offers more than 50 majors, with the most popular being in business, the health professions, education, music, computer science and speech-language disorders.
“Elmhurst College’s exceptionally high rank in the Money magazine study is welcome news, though not unexpected,” said Elmhurst College President S. Alan Ray. “Based on the strength of our faculty and programs, the innovative career exploration and engagement opportunities we offer our students, and our commitment to keeping an excellent college education affordable for middle-class families, it’s clear that Elmhurst is an outstanding value for great students.”
For the last several years, the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings have named Elmhurst College one of the Midwest’s best buys in higher education. The designation as a Best Value School is given specifically to “Great Schools at Great Prices”— institutions that offer an excellent education for the money. U.S. News determines the Best Value Schools list by taking into account a school’s academic quality and the net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid for that academic year.