Washington and Lee University in Virginia ranks second among liberal arts schools this year on Kiplinger’s annual list of Best Values in Private Colleges, after Pomona College in California.
The University of Richmond fares best among private universities in the region — ranked 12th on a list topped by Princeton and Yale.
Kiplinger’s annual ranking attempts to quantify both academic quality and price, considering such factors as average debt at graduation and total annual cost, in addition to such basic ranking metrics as graduation rate and selectivity.
The list is not actually that much different from the U.S. News rankings, which do not consider value. That’s because most of the schools atop the U.S. News list are well-endowed institutions with similarly generous financial aid policies.
But Kiplinger’s approach spotlights some schools that fare less well in the U.S. News calculus.
Rice University, which ranks 17th among national universities in U.S. News, ranks fourth among private universities on the Kiplinger list. Average debt at graduation is under $14,000, among the lowest totals for any private institution.
Washington and Lee ranks 12th on the U.S. News ranking of liberal arts schools. It does better on the Kiplinger list because of several factors. It has, by Kiplinger’s count, the highest four-year graduation rate of any liberal arts school, 91.7 percent, higher even than Williams and Amherst colleges. It also ranks well in debt at graduation and student aid.
(U.S. News, incidentally, shows Washington and Lee with a lower graduation rate than either Williams or Amherst. I can’t explain the discrepancy, although it’s likely U.S. News uses six-year, rather than four-year, graduation rates.)
The University of Richmond, which is categorized as a liberal arts school by U.S. News, fares well on the Kiplinger list of private universities because of low debt at graduation, about $23,000, and generous student aid.