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12 Top Colleges Where Students Get the Best Bang For Their Buck

President Obama recently unveiled his plans for a new collegiate ranking system that will be used to determine the distribution of federal education funds. Hoping to capitalize on recent developments in higher education, the president hopes his new rating system will help get recent sharp college tuition increases under control. His plan entails comparing schools on their relative costs, average student debt upon graduation, graduation rates, starting salaries after graduation, and percentage of low income students in attendance.

Although some believe this new initiative will only lead to more gaming of the system by colleges and universities to maintain or increase current levels of funding, some schools are already performing better than average on these indicators. Using recent data for average student debt upon graduation, starting salaries, tuition and room and board for four-year universitiessix-year graduation rates, and percentage of students who qualify for Pell grants as rough indicators, these 12 universities probably stand to benefit from the new funding structure as they are already meeting many of the standards Obama has laid out.

1. University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati is performing better than average in terms of graduation rate, debt at time of graduation, percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants, and starting salary after graduation. Recent tuition increases has put tuition and room and board a little over the national average, but the university seems to offer a good return on investment with relativity high graduation rates and starting salaries for recent graduates. 

2. Ohio University

Ohio University is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rate, debt at time of graduation, and percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. Starting salary after graduation is a little below the national average, maybe a result of the low cost of living in this part of the state.

3. San Diego State University

San Diego State University is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rate, debt at time of graduation, and percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. Starting salary after graduation is slightly below the national average.

4. University of Houston

The University of Houston is performing better than average in terms of cost, starting salary after graduation, debt at time of graduation, and percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. Graduation rates were below the national average, an issue that can probably be addressed by strengthening relationships with regional employers.

5. Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rate, starting salary after graduation, and equals the national average percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. Debt upon graduation is higher than the national average, possibly a result of Michigan’s recent economic troubles.

6. West Virginia University

West Virginia University is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rate, debt at time of graduation, and equals the national average percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. Starting salary after graduation is a little below the national average, possibly a result of the low cost of living in this part of the country.

7. University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rates, starting salary after graduation, debt at time of graduation. The percentage of students receiving Pell grants in the student body is below the national average, which is surprising considering the lower than average cost of tuition and  room and board.

8. University of Texas

The University of Texas is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rates, starting salary of graduates, debt at time of graduation. The percentage of students receiving Pell grants in the student body is below the national average. It will be interesting to see how court proceedings around UT admission policies play out and how it will affect this statistic.

9. George Mason University

George Mason University is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rates, starting salary after graduation, and debt at time of graduation. The percentage of students receiving Pell grants in the student body is below the national average. Maybe efforts to increase diversity can get them more in line with the national average.

10. University of Maryland Baltimore County

The University of Maryland Baltimore County is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rates, starting salary after graduation, and debt at time of graduation. The percentage of students receiving Pell grants in the student body is below the national average. Greater recruiting efforts in nearby inner city Baltimore can help increase economic diversity. 

11. University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma is performing better than average in terms of cost, graduation rates, starting salary after graduation, debt at time of graduation. The percentage of students receiving Pell grants in the student body is below the national average. Recruiting in more economically diverse areas can probably get them more in line with the rest of the nation, especially considering its reasonable cost of attendance. 

12. Texas A&M University

Texas A&M was the only school to satisfy all the conditions used for compiling this list, cost, graduation rates, starting salary after graduation, debt at time of graduation, and percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell grants. It will be interesting to see if other universities will began to analyze A&M if administration of President Obama's plan places emphasis on these statistics.

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