The top 25 US colleges where students get the most for their money

Scott Eisen/Getty ImagesHarvard University is among the best value colleges in America, according to Niche.
  • Attending college is expensive, especially for families taking out thousands of dollars in student loans.
  • Thankfully, there are dozens of affordable public and private schools that offer financial aid to students in need.
  • We compiled the 25 best colleges for your money, according to Niche, a school rankings site that accounted for each university’s yearly tuition, net price, or average price with financial aid, and average alumni income.
  • The United States Merchant Marine Academy landed the top spot, followed by MIT and Stanford University.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Attending a four-year university requires a long-term financial commitment, which sometimes lasts for decades. Some families are forced to take out student loans, but they never see a return on their investment. And according to experts, college tuition is only going to keep rising.

Some private universities offer generous financial aid packages, while many states offer financial aid to resident students in need. We looked at Niche’s 2021 rankings for the schools with the best value, measured based on tuition, net price, or the average annual cost after considering typical financial aid amounts, and the average income of alumni six years after graduating.

For each school, we’ve noted the tuition, net price, the average amount of financial aid each school gives its students per year, the percentage of students that actually get that aid, graduation rates, employment rates two years after graduation, and median earnings six years after graduation.

Here are the top 25 colleges with the best value in the US.

Ivan De Luce contributed reporting to a previous version of this post.


25. Babson College — Wellesley, Massachusetts

Janet Knott/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesYing Chui Cheng, left, learns about creativity with her teacher, Mary Pinard, on the Babson College campus in Wellesley. Pinard teaches creativity to business students.

Tuition:
$US51,104

Net price:
$US29,587

Average total aid awarded each year: $US38,895

Students receiving financial aid: 50%

Graduation rate: 91%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 91%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US96,100


24. Massachusetts Maritime Academy — Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

REUTERS/Andrew KellyMembers of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy stand before participating in the Veterans Day Parade in New York on November 11, 2019.

Tuition (out-of-state):
$US26,106

Net price:
$US15,290

Average total aid awarded each year: $US11,129

Students receiving financial aid: 91%

Graduation rate: 73%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 97%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US86,600


23. Stevens Institute of Technology — Hoboken, New Jersey

Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty ImagesA general view of the Stevens Ducks pitch ahead of squad training at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Tuition:
$US52,394

Net price:
$US39,862

Average total aid awarded each year: $US26,822

Students receiving financial aid: 99%

Graduation rate: 87%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 94%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US89,200


22. Colorado School of Mines — Golden, Colorado

Kathryn Scott/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesStudents make their way across the campus grounds at the Colorado School of Mines on April 18, 2017.

Tuition (out-of-state):
$US38,584

Net price:
$US25,767

Average total aid awarded: $US10,829

Students receiving financial aid: 91%

Graduation rate: 80%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 95%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US84,900


21. Virginia Military Institute — Lexington, Virginia

Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty ImagesVirginia, Lexington, Stonewall Jackson Statue And Cannons At Virginia Military Institute.

Tuition (out-of-state):
$US45,706

Net price:
$US14,799

Average total aid awarded: $US17,188

Students receiving financial aid: 94%

Graduation rate: 78%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 97%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US65,700


20. Cornell University — Ithaca, New York

Lewis Liu/Shutterstock

Tuition:
$US55,188

Net price:
$US28,890

Average total aid awarded: $US41,405

Students receiving financial aid: 60%

Graduation rate: 95%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 93%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US77,200


19. Dartmouth College — Hanover, New Hampshire

Dan Lewis/Shutterstock

Tuition:
$US53,496

Net price:
$US23,394

Average total aid awarded: $US48,433

Students receiving financial aid: 58%

Graduation rate: 95%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 94%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US75,500


18. Williams College — Williamstown, Massachusetts

John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images)Hopkins Hall, Williams College campus.

Tuition:
$US55,450

Net price:
$US18,979

Average total aid awarded: $US51,671

Students receiving financial aid: 63%

Graduation rate: 95%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 90%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US59,000


17. University of Notre Dame — Notre Dame, Indiana

Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

Tuition:
$US53,391

Net price:
$US30,229

Average total aid awarded: $US39,153

Students receiving financial aid: 66%

Graduation rate: 97%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 95%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US78,400


16. Albany College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences — Albany, New York

Robert Stone/Getty ImagesAlbany College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences is located in Albany, New York.

Tuition:
$US35,105

Net price:
$US29,802

Average total aid awarded: $US17,481

Students receiving financial aid: 100%

Graduation rate: 66%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 98%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US124,700


15. University of Pennsylvania — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Jon Lovette/Getty Images

Tuition:
$US55,584

Net price:
$US26,266

Average total aid awarded: $US46,318

Students receiving financial aid: 58%

Graduation rate: 95%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 91%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US85,900


14. Colgate University — Hamilton, New York

John Greim/LightRocket via Getty ImagesColgate University campus.

Tuition:
$US55,530

Net price:
$US23,058

Average total aid awarded: $US46,802

Students receiving financial aid: 49%

Graduation rate: 89%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 93%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US63,600


13. Georgia Institute of Technology — Atlanta, Georgia

Rob Hainer/Shutterstock

Tuition (out-of-state):
$US33,020

Net price:
$US16,950

Average total aid awarded: $US12,716

Students receiving financial aid: 79%

Graduation rate: 87%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 95%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US79,100


12. Washington & Lee University — Lexington, Virginia

Stephanie Gross for The Washington Post via Getty ImagesWashington and Lee University in Lexington Virginia.

Tuition:
$US52,455

Net price:
$US21,918

Average total aid awarded: $US45,232

Students receiving financial aid: 64%

Graduation rate: 95%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 94%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US76,100


11. Yale University — New Haven, Connecticut

f11photo/Shutterstock

Tuition:
$US55,500

Net price:
$US18,748

Average total aid awarded: $US52,542

Students receiving financial aid: 60%

Graduation rate: 97%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 92%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US83,200


10. Rice University — Houston, Texas

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)An unidentified woman walks past Rice University’s Lovett Hall.

Tuition:
$US47,350

Net price:
$US23,202

Average total aid awarded: $US39,956

Students receiving financial aid: 69%

Graduation rate: 95%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 92%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US65,400


9. Carnegie Mellon University — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)A student walks across The Cut on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.

Tuition:
$US55,465

Net price:
$US30,847

Average total aid awarded: $US39,213

Students receiving financial aid: 59%

Graduation rate: 89%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 91%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US83,600


8. Harvey Mudd College — Claremont, California

Ted Soqui/Corbis/Getty ImagesStudents and others gather at Beckman Hall on the grounds of the Harvey Mudd College Campus in Pomona.

Tuition:
$US56,620

Net price:
$US38,768

Average total aid awarded: $US35,660

Students receiving financial aid: 76%

Graduation rate: 92%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 89%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US88,800


7. Princeton University — Princeton, New Jersey

William Thomas Cain/Getty ImagesStudents walk on campus at Princeton University on February 4, 2020 in Princeton, New Jersey.

Tuition:
$US50,340

Net price:
$US16,192

Average total aid awarded: $US50,758

Students receiving financial aid: 62%

Graduation rate: 96%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 87%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US74,700


6. Duke University — Durham, North Carolina

Chadarat Saibhut/Shutterstock

Tuition:
$US55,695

Net price:
$US19,785

Average total aid awarded: $US52,681

Students receiving financial aid: 66%

Graduation rate: 96%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 94%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US84,400


5. Harvard University — Cambridge, Massachusetts

Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Tuition:
$US50,420

Net price:
$US17,590

Average total aid awarded: $US53,545

Students receiving financial aid: 77%

Graduation rate: 98%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 89%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US89,700


4. California Institute of Technology — Pasadena, California

Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesCampus scene at California Institute of Technology, Caltech, in Pasadena, California, in 2013.

Tuition:
$US52,362

Net price:
$US26,361

Average total aid awarded: $US42,540

Students receiving financial aid: 64%

Graduation rate: 92%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 89%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US85,900


3. Stanford University — Stanford, California

Beck Diefenbach/ReutersCyclists traverse the main quad on Stanford University’s campus.

Tuition:
$US51,354

Net price:
$US17,271

Average total aid awarded: $US51,838

Students receiving financial aid: 68%

Graduation rate: 94%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 94%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US94,000


2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Cambridge, Massachusetts

Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesA view of Building 7 on the campus of Massachusetts Institute of Technology on March 31, 2020.

Tuition:
$US51,832

Net price:
$US18,971

Average total aid awarded: $US48,459

Students receiving financial aid: 73%

Graduation rate: 94%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 94%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US104,700


1. The United States Merchant Marine Academy — Kings Point, New York

Spencer Pratt/ Getty

Tuition:
$US1,080

Net price:
$US3,119

Average total aid awarded: $US4,142

Students receiving financial aid: 38%

Graduation rate: 84%

Employed 2 years after graduation: 97%

Median earnings 6 years after graduation:$US88,100

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