10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12
Slide Show

10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12

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Liberal arts colleges typically have smaller enrollments than universities and focus on undergraduate education, with an emphasis on teaching rather than research.

This year’s top 100 liberal arts colleges excel at that format, providing the academic support that encourages learning and allows students to graduate on time.

They also make their education affordable by offsetting tuition hikes with generous need-based financial aid and, at many schools, offering merit scholarships to students who don’t qualify for need.

The top 10 schools you'll see featured in this slide show are the best of the best.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 2 of 11

1. Pomona College

Pamona College

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Location: Claremont, Cal.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,560

Total Annual Cost: $54,010

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $34,674

Average Debt at Graduation: $10,592

This West Coast school, established on the New England model, draws students for its top academics, generous financial aid and idyllic setting -- near the Mojave Desert and the San Gabriel Mountains. Pomona's 15% admission rate (the percentage of applicants who are admitted) is the lowest on our liberal arts list, and the student-faculty ratio is an impressive seven to one.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 3 of 11

2. Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

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Location: Lexington, Va.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,759

Total Annual Cost: $54,414

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $34,315

Average Debt at Graduation: $23,807

Named for George Washington and Robert E. Lee, W&L continues its climb up our rankings thanks to the high test scores of incoming freshmen, a low percentage of students who borrow and the best four-year graduation rate on our liberal arts list. George Washington gave this school its first major gift, $20,000 worth of stock; the endowment hovers around $1 billion.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 4 of 11

3. Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College

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Location: Swarthmore, Pa.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,524

Total Annual Cost: $54,400

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $35,033

Average Debt at Graduation: $18,739

Founded by Quakers, this small school admits only 16% of its applicants, making it one of the most competitive liberal arts colleges on our list. Its billion-dollar-plus endowment allows it to meet 100% of need for students who qualify, reducing the average cost of attendance to less than $20,000.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 5 of 11

4. Williams College

Williams College

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Location: Williamstown, Mass.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,029

Total Annual Cost: $55,360

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $39,274

Average Debt at Graduation: $8,369

A New England school that competes with the Ivies, Williams consistently ranks in our top five for its stellar academics -- including a low student-faculty ratio, strong freshman retention rate and outstanding graduation rates. Students who borrow at Williams graduate with an average debt of less than $8,400, the lowest among our top 50 liberal arts colleges.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 6 of 11

5. Davidson College

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Location: Davidson, N.C.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,742

Total Annual Cost: $50,723

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $24,873

Average Debt at Graduation: $23,233

Davidson's no-loan financial-aid policy keeps the percentage of students who borrow to a relatively low 32%. Unlike many other top schools, Davidson also awards non-need-based aid, with an average award of $18,503. Davidson prides itself on its honor code, which allows students to schedule their own exams and take them unsupervised.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 7 of 11

6. Hamilton College

Tom Sofranko

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Location: Clinton, N.Y.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,861

Total Annual Cost: $54,770

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $33,381

Average Debt at Graduation: $16,982

Founded as a school for the children of colonial settlers and Oneida Indians, Hamilton celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2012. This competitive school accepts less than one-third of applicants; 95% of its freshmen return for sophomore year. Hamilton offers generous need-based aid as well as large merit scholarships to a few students.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 8 of 11

7. Vassar College

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Location: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,446

Total Annual Cost: $56,635

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $36,353

Average Debt at Graduation: $18,153

Vassar's high test scores, low student-faculty ratio and stellar four-year graduation rate makes it one of the academically strongest of our top-ranked schools. Vassar offers need-based aid to almost two-thirds of its students and gets student borrowers across the finish line with less than $20,000 in average debt.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 9 of 11

8. Wellesley College

Wellesley College

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Location: Wellesley, Mass.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,411

Total Annual Cost: $54,050

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $36,299

Average Debt at Graduation: $12,495

One of the few women-only colleges on our list and the only one among our top ten, Wellesley's yield (the number of admitted students who enroll) is among the highest of our liberal arts colleges. This elite school provides need-based financial aid to 60% of its students and meets the full need of those who qualify.
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 10 of 11

9. Bowdoin College

Bowdoin College

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Location: Brunswick, Maine

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,762

Total Annual Cost: $55,290

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $35,590

Average Debt at Graduation: $18,229

Bowdoin's low admission rate and high yield demonstrate its competitive strength. Its four-year graduation rate is among the best on both the liberal arts college and private university lists. One of the country's oldest liberal arts colleges, Bowdoin claims an eclectic roster of alums, from Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter) to Alfred Kinsey (The Kinsey Reports).
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10 Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges, 2011-12 | Slide 11 of 11

10. Amherst

Amherst College

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Location: Amherst, Mass.

Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,795

Total Annual Cost: $55,098

Average Annual Need-Based Aid: $39,675

Average Debt at Graduation: $12,843

This school excels on competitiveness measures, including admission rate, yield and the test scores of incoming freshmen. Amherst is a member of the Five Colleges consortium, which also includes Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges and UMass Amherst. Students can attend classes at all five institutions.
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