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Leveraging Aid Can Bring Down Price at Private Nonprofit Colleges

Students are encouraged to look beyond the sticker price of private colleges. And for good reason. The College Board's new report lists the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at private nonprofit colleges for 2012-13 at $39,518.

A closer look at the aid provided by institutions and the government shows the actual net price of attending these schools has actually gone down slightly in the past five years in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Full-time undergraduates at private nonprofit four-year institutions receive about $15,680 on average when combining all sources of help, including tax credits. This brings the average net price of tuition and fees down to $13,380, plus about $10,000 for room and board, according to this year's Trends in College Pricing 2012.

There is a wide range of prices (some topping $60,000) and availability of aid, so it's smart for students to be savvy and comparison shop.

On Wednesday, Kiplinger's Personal Finance released its annual list of best values in private colleges and universities. To come up with the ranking, it looks at academic quality and affordability. To measure the academics, Kiplinger included student admission rate, test scores of incoming freshmen, the ratio of students to faculty members, and graduation rates. In figuring costs, it considered the published price, average amount of need-based and merit-based financial aid, and student debt at graduation.

At its top-ranked private school for value, Yale University in New Haven, Conn., has a published price tag of $52,700. However, on average, students get $38,914 in need-based aid and the average debt at graduation is just $9,254. Yale admits just 7 percent of applicants, has one faculty member for every five students, and boasts of four-year graduation rate of nearly 89 percent. These details are listed for each of the 200 schools named best values here.

Here are highlights of Kiplinger's list:

Best Values in Private Universities
1. Yale University
2. Rice University
3. Princeton University
4. Duke University
5. California Institute of Technology
6. Harvard University
7. Columbia University
8. Stanford University
9. Mass. Institute of Technology
10. University of Pennsylvania
11. University of Richmond
12. Brown University
13. Vanderbilt University
14. University of Chicago
15. Emory University
16. Dartmouth College
17. Georgetown University
18. Cornell University
19. Washington University in St. Louis
20. Northwestern University


Best Values in Liberal Arts Colleges
1. Swarthmore College
2. Pomona College
3. Washington and Lee University
4. Amherst College
5. Colgate University
6. Williams College
7. Bowdoin College
8. Davidson College
9. Vassar College
10. Haverford College
11. Colorado College
12. Colby College
13. Middlebury College
14. Claremont McKenna College
15. Wellesley College
16. Scripps College
17. Grinnell College
18. Wesleyan University
19. Carleton College
20. Hillsdale College

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