The USA numbers about 1,500 four-year colleges but when deciding which university to enter it is vital to know the best colleges that deliver the top-notch education and set students up for a successful career at a price families can afford. To find out, Kids Universe- Colleges Role in Life screened the schools and ranked them in three important categories: educational quality, affordability, and alumni earnings. Here's the list of the top colleges for 2015 that all have graduation rates of at least 80% and alumni that, on average, report earning more than $55,000 within five years of graduation.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $280,126
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $96,704
Average student debt upon graduation: $3,270
Average early career earnings: $64,400
According to the Princeton Review survey many families consider Stanford University to be their top dream college. For three years in a row parents have ranked this school as the most desired for their students to attend. One of the reasons is the stellar faculty boasting an incredible array of innovative and important thinkers, including 21 Nobel laureates, 27 MacArthur "geniuses," and four Pulitzer Prize winners.
The educational demands are tough and many students often struggle desperately to keep going. But the results of such hard work speak for themselves. It is the Stanford alums who founded Google, Yahoo, Cisco, and many other prosperous tech companies. Another important reason why many Americans favor this college is that Recent Stanford grads earn average annual salaries of $64,400, which is about $4,000 more than the average reported by Ivy League graduates.
Stanford is also generous with aid. This year families with income less than $65,000 would pay no more than $5,000; those earning $125,000 would spend less than $20,000.
The territory of the college campus is vast, and most students rise bicycles to get around. For many years Stanford football team has competed with the University of California-Berkeley. One of the most notable traditions is the Halloween Mausoleum Party, held at the Stanford Mausoleum where Leland Stanford Jr. is buries. His father, a California governor, founded the university in his memory after his son died at the age of 15.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $267,402
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $116,301
Average student debt upon graduation: $12,236
Average early career earnings: $60,100
Specializing in business and entrepreneurship Babson offers only one degree-a B.S. in business, but half of the curricula include the liberal arts, history, political studies, and environmental sustainability. The focus on business is the biggest advantage of this school. At the college students get lots of real-world learning and hands-on experience from the very beginning, starting a business as part of a freshmen team (with profits going to charity) and, then, through continuing collaboration with local companies and via internships. Within five years of graduation Babson alums earn an average about $60,100 a year, which is about $9,300 more than the average earnings of recent grads of comparable schools. The examples of successful businesses started by Babson alums are Gerber, Home Depot, and Zumba Fitness.
The university campus draws a number of international students from 70 countries of the world. Many students are engaged in sports, plus there are Monthly Knight parties and the annual spring concert held at Babson College.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $263,848
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $100,708
Average student debt upon graduation: $6,482
Average early career earnings: $72,500
Ranked as one of the most respected science schools in the world, MIT has notoriously competitive selection process, with 25% of students getting perfect scores on their math SAT. The school is known for its tough workload, which features physics, biology, chemistry, and calculus as required courses. In addition, MIT's professors are world class, with nine Nobel Prize winners currently employed.
According to the college statistics the 93% of the graduates tend to do very well. Those who start their career report earning 20% more than students at similar schools. The college is not the most expensive private school and generously provides institutional grants to 55% of its students.
The students of MIT belong to highly diverse ethnic groups. The campus is located in Cambridge, close to bustling nightlife and numerous cultural attractions of nearby Boston. Popular fun activities of the Techies include playing Quidditch or experimenting in the Laboratory for Chocolate Science.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $248,557
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $91,381
Average student debt upon graduation: $1,563
Average early career earnings: $60,500
Due to it generous financial aid Princeton University is ranked as the most affordable college of the Ivy League. On average six out of 10 families who qualify receive large grants (households with income less than $250,000 generally obtain grants; those earning less than $60,000 get a free ride) so over 75% of students graduate without any debt.
While studying, undergrads learn the ropes under the guidance of some of the country's most renowned intellectual figures, including economists Paul Krugman and Burton Malkiel, novelist Joyce Carol Oates, and MacArthur "geniuses" Daniel Sigman, a geophysicist, and Emily Thompson, a historian. Upon graduation, office seekers with Princeton diplomas clearly have an edge in the job market. Recent grads on average make over $60,500 a year, which is more than those graduated from similar schools.
With ivy-covered Gothic-style buildings and picturesque parks Princeton campus is well known as one of the most beautiful in the country. By tradition most juniors and seniors belong to "eating clubs," the admission to which requires passing through a secretive selection process. Sports events are not very popular, but if the football team defeats both Yale and Harvard, a ceremonial bonfire is held.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $264,638
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $116,443
Average student debt upon graduation: $6,098
Average early career earnings: $72,300
The standards of California Institute of Technology are the most demanding among elite schools. The bottom 25% of freshmen scored about 1500 on their SATs-higher than at Harvard, MIT, or Stanford. The work load is rather challenging and professors are notoriously strict so getting A's is not easy.
A hallmark of the school is great research opportunities. For example, the college students have internships at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located not far from Caltech's Pasadena campus. According to the National Science Foundation no other university in the country produces more science and engineering Ph.D.s than Caltech does. The school also numbers 33 Nobel laureates among its alumni and faculty members. As a rule Techies get great jobs, earning salaries that average over $72,3000 within five years of graduation.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $268,832
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $77,046
Average student debt upon graduation: $2,306
Average early career earnings: $60,000
The most prestigious and synonymous with the Ivy League is Harvard. And for the good reason. Its students can use books from the largest university library in the world and attend lectures of some of the most illustrious faculty, such as historian Niall Ferguson, Nobel-prize winning economist Alvin Roth, and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. Among its famous alumni are cellist Yo-Yo Ma, physician Andrew Weil, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, to name just a few.
Harvard is not as expensive as most might think. It grants financial aid to 20% of students from families with income lower than $65,000 a year. So a large number of students graduate without debt.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $281,137
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $149,678
Average student debt upon graduation: $9,124
Average early career earnings: $76,400
Established in 1955, Harvey Mudd College quickly gained the reputation as a leading science and engineering school. Despite being considered mostly liberal arts institution the college offers only B.S. degrees in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, and physics. The core curriculum includes a number of humanities and social science courses and the students can enroll in any classes offered by the other Claremont Colleges: Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, Pomona, and Scripps.
Unlike most science-oriented schools, the college focuses primarily on teaching rather than research. Even though there are only 800 students in the school, it is one of the country's top producers of Ph.D.s in science and engineering, according to the National Science Foundation. About 60% of graduates who start their career right after graduation earn, on average, about $76,000 a year within five years- 25% more compared to other graduates with similar credentials in science and math.
The workload is intense, but Harvey Mudd students join with the other Claremont colleges to play a number of sports, including football, basketball, soccer, and other. Each year, the students stage one of Shakespeare's plays during Alumni Weekend.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $115,888
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $78,768
Average student debt upon graduation: $32,402
Average early career earnings: $67,600
Maine Maritime Academy is the best choice for those students who are interested in engineering and marine science. This top-notch school offers lots of a hands-on experience on training ships. Some students prefer to study at the military-style regiments at the school, which require uniforms, standing watch and other duties.
The training provides a good career start and the average alum reports making over $67,000 within five years of graduation, 20% higher than the average salary of those students who recently graduated from schools with similar specialization.
It is not extremely difficult to get to Maine Maritime: the average student scored about 500 on both the math and critical reading SATs. The school is located in a quiet town close to the seacoast. The school boasts 11 Division III teams, including a popular sailing club.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $271,914
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $78,589
Average student debt upon graduation: $2,610
Average early career earnings: $55,700
Amherst, specializing in liberal arts, has no required courses except a first-year seminar emphasizing writing and critical thinking. Without any extra cost the students are allowed to take classes offered by the other nearby colleges, including Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This private elite college is known for its commitment to teaching and close interaction between professors and students.
Amherst reports to be meeting 100% of every student's demonstrated financial need. As a result, about 70% of students graduate from Amherst without student loans.
Amherst grads report to earn about $55,700 within five years, which is more than salaries reported by similar colleges. Playing sports has been all time popular in college, especially games between Amherst and friendly rival Williams College. The annual football game between the two Division III schools is called the Biggest Little Game in America, with a hint on the Big Game played annually by Stanford and UC-Berkeley.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $271,544
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $83,976
Average student debt upon graduation: $3,838
Average early career earnings: $63,300
A small college in East Village near New York City, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, offers only three programs of study: art, architecture, and engineering. This college is among the nation's most selective, with only 8% of acceptance rate, similar to that of the Ivy League.
But those who are gifted enough to get into Cooper Union often become notable figures in the highly competitive art and architecture field. Among its renowned alumni are Daniel Libeskind, a designer of New York City's new Freedom Tower, and the installation artist Whitfield Lovell, who created tableaux of early 20th century African Americans that won him a MacArthur "genius" award in 2007.
Cooper Union, founded in 1859, used to be very popular because it didn't charge tuition fee. But since 2014 the school started charging for the tuition (now $20,400 per semester). Still, CU remains one of the most affordable private elite colleges around, with tuition cost not much higher than that of many top public schools.
Estimated sticker price of a degree: $156,600
Estimated price for those who receive college aid: $102,277
Average student debt upon graduation: $7,301
Average early career earnings: $58,300
UC-Berkeley, also known as Cal, is considered one of the most selective public colleges in the country. According to statistics, 91% of freshman graduate within six years, which is well above other prestigious public schools. Cal is a renowned research institution that boasts world-class faculty members, such as MacArthur "geniuses," Pulitzer Prize winners, and Nobel laureates, including biologist Randy Schekman, awarded the Nobel for medicine 2013, and astrophysicist George Smoot, who won the 2006 award in physics. Notable alumni include the novelist Maxine Hong Kingston, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
As with many big universities, lower-level classes are large, as well as the choices for non-academic pursuits, including more than 50 sororities and fraternities and hundreds of clubs. Sports are very popular among the students. The sports teams are very competitive and there are legends about the football rivalry with nearby Stanford.