To identify 221 bargain colleges for The Best Buys in College Education, Edward Fiske and his staff examined data on 2,000 four-year institutions. His basic criteria: faculties with at least 60 percent PhDs, a good acceptance rate for alumni applying to graduate schools, and selectivity in admissions. While no school in the District made Fiske's grade, some area institutions did:

*University of Maryland, in College Park: "A dozen academic departments that rank among the best in public institutions nationwide and the university's location . . . make it a special bargain."

*St. Mary's College of Maryland, in St. Mary's City: ". . . is not religious, private, or single-sex. But . . . a real educational bargain . . . the equivalent of a small liberal-arts college within a public university system."

*Washington College, in Chestertown, Md.: "Close student-faculty relationships are the norm and help immensely in strengthening academics."

*George Mason University, in Fairfax: ". . . can best be described as 'precocious.' Residents cannot afford not to attend Mason, and out-of-staters get a pretty inexpensive ride as well."

*Mary Washington College, in Fredericksburg, Va.: ". . . extensive state support helps account for the low cost of attending this unusual public institution, the only public liberal-arts college in Virginia."

*Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in Blacksburg: ". . . wasn't always the diversified, demanding, and upwardly mobile -- or even coed -- university it is today."