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US News & World Report has named Princeton University the best college in the United States, and it's also one of the best values. (AP Photo/File)

Why some of the most expensive colleges are the best value

A new list of the best colleges is a case of "round up the usual suspects."

US News & World Report has named Princeton University the best college in the United States, with the University of California-Berkeley the top public school at No. 20 overall.

The magazine's annual list, published Tuesday, said Harvard University was the No. 2 school in the country with Yale University rounding out the top three. The much-watched list ranks colleges based on selectivity, retention and graduation rates.

Columbia University earned the fourth spot, and Stanford University and the University of Chicago tied for fifth. A three-way tie for No. 7 gave Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania spots on the list.

California Institute of Technology and Dartmouth College tied for the 10th spot.

So, what we've learned is the latest college rankings show some of the most prestigious and expensive schools, may also be the best value in the long run.

The average student receiving financial aid on those campuses paid about a quarter of the public sticker price. Most graduates leave their ivy-covered quads with smaller debts than peers who attended less prestigious schools.

For example, students at Princeton University, the top school in US News' annual rankings, who borrowed to pay for their Ivy League education, left with $5,000 in debt for four years - the lowest sum for alumni leaving a national university with debts.

Then look northward. Among students who took on debt during college, Massachusetts' Wheelock College topped the list with almost $50,000 in red ink.

And the reason is some of the biggest-name universities are also those with the most successful alumni, who fund their Alma Mater's investment portfolios. Interest from their endowments offsets the cost of tuition.

On the list, the University of Washington slipped to 52 among 201 schools, but was still in the top 20 for all public universities. Washington State University is No. 128. Among regional schools, WWU is No. 2 in the west, and Evergreen is No. 5.

KIRO Radio's Owen Murphy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Dave Ross, KIRO Radio Morning News Anchor
Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.
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