New Rankings Highlight Top Private Colleges Where Graduates Have Less Than $20,000 in Debt

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A new Student Loan Hero study highlights 20 schools where students can get the private-college experience without the usual high prices — or debt.

Student Loan Hero

Student Loan Hero

Today's cost-conscious college candidates and parents might not even consider private colleges, assuming these schools are budget-busters that will land them in six-figure student debt.

Private colleges are pricey. At least that’s the wisdom widely preached to college applicants. On average, tuition at private colleges costs $23,830 more per year than tuition at in-state public schools, according to College Board estimates.

However, new college rankings reveal the private colleges that are exceptions. Student Loan Hero, a leading financial education website, surveyed and ranked 670 private colleges in the U.S. to find those that offer students a great deal.

"Public colleges are often touted as a cost-effective college choice, but they aren't the only affordable option," said Elyssa Kirkham, lead researcher on the study. "Today's cost-conscious college candidates and parents might not even consider private colleges, assuming these schools are budget-busters that will land them in six-figure student debt."

New rankings from Student Loan Hero challenge the assumption that private colleges always cost more. They highlight 20 private colleges that charge affordable tuition, offer financial aid to lower students' net prices, and keep students from getting too far into debt.

Here are the top 10 affordable private colleges, along with the average indebtedness of their graduates:

— College of the Ozarks in Missouri: $5,339
— Davis College in New York: $5,360
— Brigham Young University in Utah: $15,720
— Amridge University in Alabama: $10,500
— Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky: $10,591
— Berea College in Kentucky: $7,928
— Barclay College in Kansas: $7,220
— The Baptist College of Florida: $17,174
— Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary in Missouri: $15,498
— Princeton University in New Jersey: $8,577


"Students at these private colleges have to borrow less debt to finance a degree," Kirkham said. "With fewer student loans to hold them back, students at these top private colleges graduate ahead of the financial curve."

Methodology: Student Loan Hero surveyed data for 670 private colleges and ranked institutions based on the factors of affordability and student debt.

Private colleges were ranked based on four factors: (1) tuition and fees for 2015-16 and (2) the 2014-15 estimates of net price, which is the cost of attendance after the average financial aid package is applied to costs, both sourced from the most recent data available from the National Center of Educational Statistics, and (3) the average indebtedness of a 2015 graduate from the college and (4) the proportion of students graduating with any student debt, both sourced from the most recent data from the Institute for College Access & Success Project on Student Debt.

Tuition and fees, net price, and proportion of students graduating with student debt were weighted equally (at one-fifth of the ranking score). The average indebtedness was weighted twice as heavily (at two-fifths of the ranking score).

About Student Loan Hero

Student Loan Hero combines easy-to-use tools with financial education to help the millions of Americans living with student loan debt manage and pay off their loans. Student Loan Hero has helped more than 150,000 borrowers manage and eliminate over $3 billion in student loan debt since 2012 and assists over 3.5 million people in becoming more financially healthy every year.

Student Loan Hero offers both current and former students free loan calculators as well as unbiased, personalized advice and repayment plans through an easy-to-use online dashboard. Founded in 2012 by CEO Andrew Josuweit, who himself had over $100,000 in student loans, Student Loan Hero operates on the belief that all loan help and recommendations should come with honesty and no hidden agenda.

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