The Daily Caller Presents: The 18 Best College Values In America

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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Shopping for the right college is like shopping for carpets in the depths of some souk in Marrakesh. Only a sucker would pay the sticker price at most schools. However, thanks to a nearly perfect price discrimination scheme, getting to the actual price you will pay involves an elaborate, form-ridden process.

If you want to be guaranteed you are getting a good deal, check out these 18 colleges and universities. Some are work colleges and military academies that are either completely free or basically free to attend. Others are top-tier state universities that offer a great deal as long as you can finagle state residency. Still more are private universities with large endowments that provide a combination of incredible financial aid and a reputation that will pad your résumé for a lifetime.


Naval Academy graduation Getty ImagesThe United States Naval Academy in beautiful Annapolis, Md. is free to every student. Midshipmen also receive a stipend of $924.40 monthly (though almost all of it is automatically deducted for things you have little choice but to buy). The Academy also covers room and board as well as medical and dental care for all students. In return for this generous four-year scholarship, all graduates must served five years of active duty service. Naval Academy alumni include Ross Perot, Jimmy Carter, and John McCain.

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 2.28.52 AMSince 1928, Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music has offered full-tuition scholarships to each of its 166 students regardless of financial status. The scholarships are for both undergraduate and graduate students. With a measly acceptance rate of just four percent, though, admission is very hard to come by. Notable alumni include Leonard Bernstein and a slew of accomplished composers and musicians.

Princeton_University_squareIn 2001, Princeton University became the first school in the country to eliminate student loans and replace them with free grants. Yeah, Princeton is expensive, but its financial aid is amazing. Also, unlike a lot of schools that say they are need-blind, Princeton is need-blind (and its financial aid spending has increased by more than 150 percent since 2003). A Princeton diploma is a golden ticket, too.

Screen Shot 2014-08-02 at 2.34.34 AMDue to its unique student work program College of the Ozarks in rural Missouri is known as “Hard Work U.” Instead of paying tuition, students at this notably Christian school work 15 hours each week in the campus work program. They also work two 40-hour work weeks over the course of the year.

UNC Wilson Library photo taken and uploaded by Ildar Sagdejev via Wikimedia CommonsThe University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the best universities in the nation. It has long been called one of the “public Ivies.” Out-of-state admission can be a problem, though: UNC requires at least 82 percent of each freshman class to consist of North Carolina residents. Annual tuition and fees for North Carolina residents costs $8,374.

YouTube screenshot Hillsdale CollegeHillsdale College is a redoubt of red-blooded economic and cultural conservatism and libertarianisn in small-town Michigan with an impressive, required core curriculum. Annual tuition and fees are about $23,600 — amazingly low for a private undergraduate school. Hillsdale keeps tuition low in part by avoiding the morass of regulations that come with federal and state grants and loans.

West Point grad Getty ImagesWest Point, officially known as the United States Military Academy, has an acceptance rate of just nine percent and is easily among the best colleges in the United States. Like the Naval Academy, this bastion of military training in New York offers free tuition, room and board, etc. and a monthly stipend to all students. In exchange, graduates must serve as officers. America’s Army generals tend to graduate from West Point.

Youtube screenshotDeep Springs College is a two-year college with an enrollment of just over a couple dozen students — currently all male. They receive full scholarships as well as room and board for stints of two years. They also work on a real ranch in California’s high desert. Academic life is rigorous. Graduates go on to get their bachelor’s degrees from Ivy League schools and various ultra-prestigious colleges.

Youtube screenshotWebb Institute offers just one academic option: a double major in naval architecture and marine engineering. If that’s your thing, Webb also offers full-tuition scholarships to every student. As an additional perk, the job placement rate is perennially 100 percent. The school has fewer than 100 students and is located on a 26-acre estate with a private beach in Glenn Cove, N.Y.

Yale University Harkness Tower Sage RossFounded in 1701, Yale University boasts among its alumni 19 U.S Supreme Court Justices and five U.S Presidents. The acceptance rate is 7.1 percent. The library contains over 12 million volumes. With an endowment of over $20 billion (or several million more than the annual GDP of Nepal), the Ivy League bastion is genuinely able to cover 100 percent of all students’ financial need (as defined by Yale, anyway). There are no loans. About two-thirds of all undergraduate students receive some sort of financial assistance.

Created and uploaded by Jdsteakley via Wikimedia CommonsThe University of Wisconsin, Madison ranks third nationally in research expenditures, and fifth in doctorates granted. It offers 5,100 different courses for over 40,000 students. The annual budget is almost $3 billion. For Wisconsin residents, the yearly cost of tuition and fees cost is just over $10,000.

Air Force Academy Getty ImagesFounded in 1954 and located in Colorado Springs, the United States Air Force Academy prepares Air Force officers. Like at the other service academies, Air Force cadets receive a full-tuition scholarship that covers coursework, room and board, medical expenses and a stipend. In exchange for this free education valued at over $416,000, graduates must serve five years of active duty service.

Youtube screenshotAt notably Christian Berea College in exceedingly rural Kentucky, every student receives a four-year, full-tuition scholarship. In exchange for the scholarship, students work. Berea has a labor program in which each and every student has a (paid) on-campus  job.

Youtube screenshotStanford University — the only school on this list on the West Coast — is an impressive school with a gorgeous campus. According to the school, alumni currently generate nearly $3 trillion annually. Like the other fancypants private schools on this list, Stanford is crazy expensive but financial aid is especially generous and the name on the diploma is very meaningful. Most families with incomes under $100,000 are not expected to pay tuition. Over 70% of the student body receives financial assistance.

Youtube screenshotTiny Alice Lloyd College is another work college located in Kentucky. It is specifically committed to providing higher education to people from Central Appalachia. If you come from one of 108 counties in the region, you get a full tuition scholarship. Also, the school accepts no federal or state funding.

Youtube screenshotThe United States Coast Guard Academy is the smallest of America’s service academies. It offers the same full tuition, room and board school scholarships that the other academics offer. In exchange for a free education, graduates become Coast Guard officers and must serve at least five years. Most serve much longer.

Harvard quad CC JosephBarillariHarvard University in Cambridge, Mass. is the oldest and the most famous college in the United States. Alumni include over 60 billionaires. Harvard is expensive, but you’d be surprised at how many lesser schools cost more. Over 70 percent of Harvard students receive some sort of financial aid and 100 percent of students can graduate debt free.

Youtube screenshotAt the United States Merchant Marine Academy, all graduates receive a bachelor’s degree, a U.S Coast Guard license, and a commission as a military officer. Midshipmen also get hands-on experience working on commercial vessels all around the world. It costs a little over $1,000 per year to attend the Academy. Grads must serve five years of active duty service or eight years in the U.S. maritime industry (while on active reserve duty).

(photo credits: Creative Commons/Ildar Sagdejev; Getty Images; Youtube screenshot/curtisinstitute; Creative Commons/Quantockgoblin; Youtube screenshot/jacksonappleton; Youtube screenshot/Hillsdale College; Getty Images; Youtube screenshot/MagnificentLibrary; Youtube screenshot/Webb Institute; Creative Commons/Sage Ross; Creative Commons/James Steakley; Getty Images; Youtube screenshot/BCAdmissions; Youtube screenshot/Stanford; Youtube screenshot/Alice Lloyd College; Youtube screenshot/thecoastguardchannel; Creative Commons JosephBarillari; Wikimedia Commons/Jacob Rus; Youtube screenshot)