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US News' top colleges for 2012

Though college sticker prices continue to skyrocket, a new study suggests the price of admission is still worth it.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 13, 2011 4:05PM

This post comes from Brian Burnsed at parter site U.S. News & World Report.


Princeton University tied Harvard University as the top-ranked "National University" in U.S. News & World Report's 2012 rankings of best colleges. Last year, Harvard stood alone as the best ranked National University, a category that encompasses large, research-oriented schools.


No changes took place at the very top of the rankings of "National Liberal Arts Colleges" --schools that emphasize undergraduate education and award at least half of their degrees in liberal arts fields -- as Williams College once again edged Amherst College for the highest rank. (View the 2012 rankings of National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges.)


Though college sticker prices continue to skyrocket, and it will now cost some students more than $200,000 to attain a degree at the aforementioned schools and others ranked by U.S. News, data indicate that the value of a college degree hasn't waned. A recent report by the Georgetown University Center for Education and Workforce indicates that those with bachelor's degrees earn 75% more over their lifetimes than those who only have high school diplomas. (Are you saving enough for college? Try MSN Money's calculator.)


While the national unemployment rate topped out at 9.8% in 2010, it was 5.4% among those with bachelor's degrees in the same year. Plus, a college or university doesn't need to cost six figures to provide a solid education; U.S. News highlights some of these schools in lists such as the best up-and-coming schools, the best schools for B students, and schools that provide the best value, to name a few.

There was little change among the top 20 ranked National Universities, though the University of Chicago jumped four spots, from a tie for ninth last year to a tie for fifth this year. Among the biggest movers in the top 50 are the University of Miami, which jumped nine spots from a tie for 47th to a tie for 38th, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which dropped from a tie for 41st to a tie for 50th this year. Post continues after video.

Some California schools are weathering the state's ongoing financial storm with their academic reputations intact, as the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-Los Angeles were once again ranked as the top two public National Universities. Only three public schools -- Berkeley, UCLA and the University of Virginia -- are ranked among the top 25 National Universities.


Like National Universities, there was little flux in the rankings of the top National Liberal Arts Colleges. Bryn Mawr College made one of the biggest leaps among the top 50 schools, catapulting five spots from a tie for 30th to a tie for 25th. Conversely, Smith College fell five spots from a tie for 14th to a tie for 19th.


The rankings of Regional Universities, which offer an array of undergraduate and graduate degrees but few doctoral programs, are split amongst four quadrants of the country. Villanova University, Rollins College, Creighton University and Trinity University all retained the top ranks in the North, South, Midwest and West, respectively.


However, there was change among the top Regional Colleges -- schools that emphasize undergraduate education but award fewer than 50% of degrees in the liberal arts. This year, John Brown University garnered the top spot in the South; Carroll College earned top billing in the West after last year's top school in that region, the United States Air Force Academy, was reclassified as a National Liberal Arts College. The United States Coast Guard Academy and Taylor University retained their top spots in the North and Midwest, respectively.


After 27 years of ranking best colleges, U.S. News continues to make additions beyond the data, aimed at providing students and parents the tools to find a school that best meets their needs. Given the explosion of social media in the American higher educational landscape, U.S. News now provides links to many institutions' Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, a new Facebook tool on college directory pages on allows readers to see which of their friends attended, or are attending, a particular school.


More on U.S. News & World Report and MSN Money:

Sep 13, 2011 7:00PM

Man, I should have gone to Haaaavard. Instead I'm flippin burgers at Mcdonalds. I mean, they are delicious burgers. If I went to Haaaavard then I could had a 6 figure debt load while I flip burgers. Darn, no extra thick corporate shake for me.

Sep 14, 2011 9:38AM

These much-ballyhooed college rankings by U.S. news are hugely over-rated.  Just do an an internet search for "U.S. News college rankings overrated" and find some excellent articles from experts in the field, explaining just why this is so.


I also seriously question the unending mantra about "college education=wealth! success! happiness!  etc.!"   In my city, as I look at all the unemployed college grads pounding the pavement for jobs, and then see the kids who after high school went to a 1 or 2 year technical school to learn refrigeration or plumbing or some other trade and having good jobs;  I shake my head at all the propganda out there.  This puff piece by MSN is a prime example.


P.S>  I have a college degree, but it never did me squat.   I have earned my living the past 10 years being employed steadily in a technical field that I learned at an 18 month course at a local community college.

Sep 13, 2011 11:51PM

Go to a TOP College, OH HECK YEAH!!.....Get your degree and a HUGE Debt to pay for the rest of your life !!!! OOOOH HECK YEAH!!  THAT IS AWESOME!!!......and then go to your Career Administrator at your TOP College to find out......They don't have a job for you!! Open-mouthed 




"Have a nice life!"

Sep 14, 2011 1:08AM
avatar degrees are not worth what they used to be worth.  With any one who wants to go, everyone who wants to go, and all the people who get pushed through these days a bachelors degree is worth a high school diploma.  It really doesn't get you that magical job or even guarantee you one. 
Sep 13, 2011 11:40PM

Oh wow! Another dumb lying article!  Go to the top college and GO BROKE FOREVER!!


Go Smart, Short Duration, and get your A.S. degree in a field where there is work!!!


"School does not make you rich, it is YOU that makes you rich$!"

Sep 14, 2011 1:10AM
Can't believe they are still trying to feed us this kinda stuff. Pretend everything is normal. Remember that "best cars for going back to school" article or something MSN put out a week or two ago? Ridiculous.

Sep 13, 2011 11:43PM



Cheap Stuff - Need Hands on training!  Getting your hands dirty is the best experience period!

Sep 14, 2011 10:40AM
Only corporations seem to pay any attention to which school you attended, and that is because it is a fraternity of sorts.  And then the top jobs are reserved for the Ivy League graduates, which is a joke. 
Sep 14, 2011 12:12AM

I wonder who controls what colleges are on top??!!


I know it's not the people of America......It must be corporate $$$$$$ powers.




I know Corporate America wants the best for me!

Sep 13, 2011 9:05PM
The ratings are an elitists confirmation of their elitism
Sep 14, 2011 9:35AM


Many of us have been around for a while and have gained a lot of REAL WORLD experience.


Articles such as these offer limited to no value. 


Opening your kids eyes towards how the REAL WORLD WORKS via strong work ethics, visualization, planning and effective/efficient management of time and to them as you are shaping their world of thoughts and impressions (even when they are trying to ignore you!!!).  Teach them what Credit is and WHY it is important, plus how to build, maintain, and protect it.  Don't forget to address Savings and Checking accounts, the Stock Market, how home ownership works, what paying INTEREST means (how it adds up over time), and miracle of COMPOUND INTEREST and retirement plans (such as 401k, 403k, Roth/Traditional).


ENTREPRENUERSHIP, what it is, how it works, what it takes to achieve...failure to recovery, to thriving.  Too often, we send our children to college ill-equipped and dilusional towards a 'silver spoon' ending once they've finished. 

These types of articles need to address VALUE based upon the strength of the CORE programs they fund, how those schools fund it (proportional to student), why they fund it, relationship to industry, federally funded research and development, and how industry views those programs. 


Help your children decide what they are 'good at' early on it the middle school and high school years; they need to have a critical path in their early years toward the types of careers they want to pursue early.  I am not suggesting "programming" them into being this or that, but rather offering them an understanding of what various careers entail in terms of purpose, road to getting there, rewards, and most importantly, pitfalls (economic, geographical, career-isolating, etc.



What I mentioned above is worth more than any college education costs.  Think about college with a specific PURPOSE.  Avoid articales such as this one when evaluating your options.


Just one person's perspective.

Sep 14, 2011 10:16AM
These ratings are for the most part ..... worthless!   Especially the ones about "Best Docs".  That one is a doozy.
Sep 14, 2011 11:39AM
There is nothing that makes these 'top' colleges any better than the state universities.  The egos are bigger and that's about it.  The students graduate and go out and earn the same wages that the state students earn except they have more student loans.  Since the students from the ivy league schools often have parents that have more connections (they can afford the tuition) they will be the few that get hooked up with the higher paying jobs but this is only the lucky few.  They get the jobs because of their family connections and not because they are smarter or attended a better school.
Sep 14, 2011 10:14AM
Harvard is down a notch, (not alone at the top any more), because of the kind of high profile MORONS that it seems to be producing of late. IT will probably drop to 2nd or 3rd in the next few years for that reason.

Sep 14, 2011 1:04AM

Its a system, the Top school want to retain their standing, so they attract "A" Students, so the "A" students will be convinced (because its mom and dad footing the decisions on the bill) to go to their college. This feeds the Wall Street Crowd with graduates, and other Corp. Conglomerates.


In the meantime, smart government types, that graduated years ago from these schools, that created The North American Free Trade Agreement, to Corporatize Mexico and pollute their land (since they have accomplished this in the USA already) NAFTA, now pollutes Mexico through poor management of existing manufacturing business.  Its the ever lasting Capitalism cycle that allows Corp. to pollute the USA, the Government to clean it up, and the tax payers pay through higher taxes to clean it up.  Do you think all those gas taxes you pay, go for road repair?

Sep 13, 2011 8:47PM

I think the earnings data for college vs. high school diploma are misleading. Common sense would indicate that if you remove all of the low end, minimum wage service jobs and consider only skilled blue collar jobs the average wage for high school only might even equal or surpass the average college wage. It really does not make sense to include all non-degreed workers because many college students hold these jobs. Also, nearly anyone can learn a well paying trade with minimum effort.


I know many skilled blue collar workers that make 100k a year or more primarily because they are paid for overtime.  It's also much easier to start your own trade based business.


On the other hand, I know of 2 people with PHD's in electrical engineering (one from Stanford) that cannot find a job to save their life.

Sep 14, 2011 11:29AM
Dumbing down of America. To may thinkers and no more doeres. Skilled people in short demand to teach thinkers what it is they are thinking about doing and the steps it takes to get there. Its the old Peter principal. The guy at the top has no idea so he hires someone dumber than them to hire someone dumber than them. And America is a living example, Collage other than dental and doctors a farce. Save your money, wait for the collapse and the thinkers to starve to death and the doers to keep on doing.
Sep 13, 2011 9:35PM
Kansas University is a premier University. Can't believe it is not rated.
Sep 13, 2011 6:36PM
This article is very informative, but I believe that it is time to start recognizing Online Colleges, and begin ranking them as well.
Sep 13, 2011 6:13PM
No Toledo University. That's Fast Bacoming The Best School In The World.
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