Money magazine releases 2016 top colleges ranking

Princeton University takes the top spot

Money has released its annual list of best colleges as determined by quality of education, affordability, and student outcomes. 

To be included on Money's ranking, colleges had to:

  • Have at least 500 students;
  • Have a graduation rate at or above the median for its institutional category;
  • Have enough data to be analyzed; and 
  • Not be identified as in financial difficulty by the Education Department or bond ratings agencies.

With certain exceptions, the criteria left 705 schools that were ranked on 24 factors in three categories:

  • Quality of education, including measures such as graduation rates, peer quality, and instructor quality;
  • Affordability, including measures such as the net price of a degree, debt, and student loan repayment and default risk; and
  • Outcomes, including measures such as graduates' earnings, career services, and meaningful jobs.  

See also: How do students really feel about affordability? Here's what they told us.

The top 10 colleges are:

1. Princeton University

2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (UM)

3. Harvard University

4. Rice University

5. University of California, Berkeley

5. Brigham Young University

7. Amherst College

8. Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

9. University of Virginia

10. Stanford University.

UM rose from the 18th spot to second place this year, making it the highest a public university has ever ranked on Money's list. The university jumped toward the top because of its excellence across the board, according to Money.

"One of the main reasons Michigan rose is that we changed our methodology to reward generalized excellence more than performance on any one single measure," Kim Clark, a senior writer for Money magazine and, told the Detroit Free Press. "In the past, schools such as [Babson College] had scored very highly on our rankings because they had remarkable performance on measures such as alumni earnings. But many parents questioned us about that, saying our methodology seemed to be rewarding very specialized schools" (Clark, Money, 7/11; Mulhere, Money, 7/11; Money, accessed 7/12; Jesse, Detroit Free Press, 7/11). 

Related: Are today's students migrating to value?


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