Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges

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This year’s best 100 liberal arts colleges disprove the notion that a great private-school education is unaffordable. In fact, the net average price -- the amount families pay after financial aid is applied -- is a relatively reasonable $22,000 a year, and some of the best institutions in the country, and on our list, offer a net price below $20,000.
Here are our top ten picks for best values in liberal arts colleges. The slide show begins with the navigation bar to the right.

By Jane Bennett Clark
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 2 of 11

Swarthmore College

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Location: Swarthmore, Pa.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,525
Admission Rate: 17%
SAT: 95% scored 600 or higher on verbal/math ACT: 94% scored 24 or higher
Student/Faculty Ratio: 8
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 86%/92%
Total Cost: $52,650
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $17,308
Average Debt at Graduation: 15,737

True to its Quaker tradition, this elite college offers generous need-based aid. It also awards a few large merit scholarships. Almost all of Swarthmore’s freshmen return for sophomore year.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 3 of 11

Pomona College

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Location: Claremont, Cal.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,550
Admission Rate: 16%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: Student/Faculty Ratio: 7
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 90%/94%
Total Cost: $52,723
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $16,534
Average Debt at Graduation: $11,700

One of the five members of the Claremont Colleges, this highly selective school, framed by the San Gabriel Mountains, boasts strong graduation rates and one of the lowest student-to-faculty ratios in our rankings.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 4 of 11

Williams College

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Location: Williamstown, Mass.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,067
Admission Rate: 20%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 92%/91%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 7
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 93%/96%
Total Cost: $53,140
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $14,128
Average Debt at Graduation: $7,960

A top college in the scenic Berkshire Mountains, Williams retains 98% of its freshmen and posts outstanding graduation rates. Its students leave with the lowest average debt among our top-50 liberal-arts colleges.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 5 of 11

Washington & Lee University

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Location: Lexington, Va.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,759
Admission Rate: 19%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 96%/97%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 9
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 88%/90%
Total Cost: $52,330
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $15,278
Average Debt at Graduation: $23,615

Named for George Washington, W&L’s first major benefactor, and Robert E. Lee, one of its presidents, this school draws high-scoring students and offers generous need-based and merit-based aid.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 6 of 11

Davidson College

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Location: Davidson, N.C.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,743
Admission Rate: 26%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 88%/89%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 11
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 89%/91%
Total Cost: $48,029
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $23,908
Average Debt at Graduation: $20,858

The first liberal arts college to exchange loans for grants in its financial aid package, Davidson meets the full need of students who qualify and also awards significant merit scholarships.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 7 of 11

Bowdoin College

Dan Gair/Blind Dog Photography

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Location: Brunswick, Maine
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,777
Admission Rate: 19%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 91%/93%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 9
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 89%/93%
Total Cost: $53,680
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $18,720
Average Debt at Graduation: $18,382

Founded in 1794, this New England school has a competitive admission rate, strong grad rates and a financial aid policy that excludes loans from the mix.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 8 of 11

Claremont McKenna College

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Location: Claremont, Cal.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,217
Admission Rate: 18%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 94%/92%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 9
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 87%/92%
Total Cost: $53,625
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $18,448
Average Debt at Graduation: $9,259

One of the two Claremont colleges ranked among our top ten, Claremont McKenna focuses on economics and political science. It attracts high-achieving students and enables them to graduate with a low average debt.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 9 of 11

Amherst College

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Location: Amherst, Mass.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,744
Admission Rate: 16%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 91%/91%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 8
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 85%/93%
Total Cost: $52,522
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $11,398
Average Debt at Graduation: $11,347

This highly selective college offers the highest average need-based-aid package of our top-50 liberal arts colleges. Amherst is part of a five-college consortium that also includes Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 10 of 11

Hamilton College

Tom Sofranko

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Location: Clinton, N.Y.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,882
Admission Rate: 30%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 90%/90%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 10
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 83%/86%
Total Cost: $53,060
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $16,775
Average Debt at Graduation: $19,466

This small college, located on a 1,300-acre campus, emphasizes writing and speaking. It offers generous need-based aid, along with a few large merit scholarships.
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Top Ten Values in Liberal Arts Colleges | Slide 11 of 11

Vassar College

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Location: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,452
Admission Rate: 25%
SAT (V/M) or ACT: 95%/94%
Student/Faculty Ratio: 8
Graduation Rate 4-yr./5-yr.: 88%/92%
Total Cost: $53,950
Total Cost After Average Financial Aid: $16,438
Average Debt at Graduation: $18,876

Set in the Hudson Valley, Vassar posts high graduation rates and offers ample need-based aid. It enjoys a low student-to-faculty ratio. Many of its faculty live on campus.
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