Consumer Guide publishes one of the earlier college rankings you will find. Their value-based college ranking came out in June. Other publications wait until August or September.

I found a copy of the June issue of Consumer Guide at my local Barnes and Noble this past week, so I took a look. For the private universities and liberal arts colleges, I glossed over the lists only briefly. They included the usual mix of schools. The only surprises I found in this college ranking were near the bottom of the private university list.

Villanova,Gonzaga and Santa Clara were rated as the 20th, 23rd and 24th best values among private universities. They’re all very good schools. They do a great job at graduating a class. But they’re not among the most generous when it comes to financial aid. At the same time the University of Chicago is not among the top 25 nor is Boston College. Both are certainly more selective than Villanova,Gonzaga and Santa Clara while they admitted students with much stronger academic credentials. At the same time those schools are more generous with their financial aid. The magazine fails to consider that schools such as Chicago and Boston College are research universities while Villanova,Gonzaga and Santa Clara offer few doctoral programs. They are not the same type of school. How can a ranking make a claim that one is better than another, even for value?

Then I went to the Public School list. Here I cannot complain so much. The best public college value: Truman State University in Missouri. I won’t argue, given how Consumer Guide does this college ranking. As is the case with the private university list, the publisher ranked regional schools and doctorate-granting research universities together. While it’s true, for example, that New Jersey students shop the College of New Jersey, a 6,500-undergraduate college against Rutgers-New Brunswick a 30,000 undergraduate research university, it is not possible to say that one school is better than the other, and therefore deserves to be ranked higher. The same is true in comparing Truman State to the University of Missouri’s main campus or the Missouri University of Science and Technology, neither of which appears in the top 50 in this college ranking.

Truman State deserves the praise here. The school has exceptionally reasonable costs. The out-of-state tuition and fees are lower than the in-state charges at Penn State-University Park and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, among other larger and better-known schools. Truman State is also part of the Midwest Student Exchange. Students who live in neighboring and nearby states qualify for tuition discounts. This school accepts more than 70 percent of the students who apply and graduates 55 percent of them on time. If cost and performance are major components of value, then Truman State deserves its high ranking.

I went further down this list. I could not find many objections, even as I get to the 50th school. Twenty-one of the schools that I called Public Ivies last year are on this list. SUNY-Geneseo is the highest ranked of my Public Ivies here. It placed sixth. This value ranking is based on out-of-state tuition so more expensive schools, including Pitt, Penn State and Rutgers clustered close to the bottom. The highest-ranked school that asks for an out-of-state tuition and fee bill in excess of $30,000 is Virginia Tech, ranked 19th. I was also happy to see that four of the 50 schools: Ramapo College of New Jersey, the College of New Jersey, Rowan University and Rutgers-New Brunswick are located in my home state. If only New Jersey parents could keep the good students from moving away.

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