10 Colleges Worth the Cash

  • Can You Get What You Pay For?

    Recently, we here at MainStreet published an interview with Claudia Dreifus, co-author (with Andrew Hacker) of the controversial book Higher Education: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids— and What We Can Do About It. In the interview, Dreifus details the reason she believes investing in a college education is becoming a losing proposition for young Americans. In fact, Hacker and Dreifus even take big Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale to task as examples of U.S. colleges that just aren’t worth the money. But the authors also point to some U.S. colleges offering college students an academic experience that is well worth the money. MainStreet asked the authors for a list of their top U.S. colleges. Here’s what they delivered. Photo Credit: bensonkua
    University of Mississippi
  • University of Mississippi

    The authors admit that they didn’t think they would like the University of Mississippi, which at one point was both “a symbol and instrument of segregation.” But they credit the work of just-retired chancellor Robert Khayat for transforming the college. During his 14 years at Ole Miss, he raised academic standards, tripled the African-American enrollment and banned Confederate flags from athletic events. Photo Credit: lordsuch
    Raritan Valley Community College
  • Raritan Valley Community College

    The authors point to this community college in suburban New Jersey, saying “it distinguishes itself by offering full-fledged versions of freshman and sophomore years of college better than many four-year schools, according to the authors.” Hacker and Dreifus are big on class sizes, so they like that there are “no liberal arts classes are more than 40 people, nearly all are taught by faculty with doctorates, and the tuition is just $3,750 a year.” Photo Credit: Raritan Valley Community College
    University of Notre Dame
  • University of Notre Dame

    Hacker and Dreifus say the Notre Dame campus “looks spartan when compared to Williams or Dartmouth [and] the school has successfully avoided the faddish academic trends and the compulsive consumerism that has overwhelmed many other colleges.” It also has a low twelve-to-one student-faculty ratio and the university’s president, Reverend John Jenkins, fiercely protects academic freedom, even if it doesn’t jibe with the Catholic church’s religious doctrines. Furthermore, the authors are impressed he donates all $475,000 of his salary back to the university. Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Paul J. Everett
    Cooper Union
  • Cooper Union

    The school was founded by Peter Cooper in 1859, who mandated it remain “as free as the air and the water.” The authors say it offers a superlative education for no tuition, which it can do because it has its priorities in order. The total budget for the school’s athletics is $20,000. Photo Credit: lightwerk
    Berea College
  • Berea College

    This little-known Kentucky college was founded in the 19th century by radical Christian abolitionists, the authors point out.  “Like Cooper Union, it has never charged a cent for tuition, only asking that students to contribute ten hours a week of labor,” the authors report The school’s mission statement says “we think students are worth more than the tuition they can afford” and the student faculty ratio is just ten-to-one with no graduate teaching assistants. Photo Credit: Berea College
    Arizona State University
  • Arizona State University

    At 68,000 students – the size of a small city - ASU looks like another huge state school, but the authors say it “may well be the most experimental institution in the country.” Much of the credit should go to President Michael Crow, who the authors call “perhaps the most creative university professor on the contemporary scene.” He championed The Barrett Honors College, which offers 3000 undergrads a liberal arts education at state school prices, and who dissolved and rebuilt many academic departments within new interdisciplinary institutes. Photo Credit: Ken Lund
    University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County

    Hacker and Dreifus say “Here good teaching, at all levels, is emphasized and the authors found that of all the schools they visited, this one had most capably connected its research functions with undergraduate schooling.” Photo Credit: cogdogblog
  • MIT

    Besides offering an elite education, the authors believe MIT’s generous and fair system of compensating part-time and adjunct professors is a laudable model. Photo Credit: vobios
    Western Oregon University
  • Western Oregon University

    Catering largely to kids from working class families, the authors found this college’s innovative faculty both seriously dedicated to and having fun with teaching. Photo Credit: Western Oregon University
    Evergreen State College
  • Evergreen State College

    ESC is an alternative school with no grades and no set curriculum, but students and faculty are seriously interested in learning for its own sake: “At Evergreen, we saw something we’d never seen anywhere else: A philosophy professor was giving a lecture to his class on an unusual topic and the other teachers stopped to listen.” Photo Credit: HeyRocker
    What Now?
  • What Now?

    Hacker and Dreifus didn’t rank the above schools in any particular order, but the fact these schools made their “Top Ten” list – after visiting 100 or so colleges in researching the book, Dreifus says – is good enough reason for high school students and families to bump them to the top of their preferred college lists. Photo Credit: tillwe
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