Princeton, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Amherst and Harvard are among America's Top 10 Colleges. But the number one school comes from outside the Ivy League.

According to the latest article on and survey of American’s best public colleges and universities, the best school is not drawn from the internationally renowned Ivy league schools of Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, or Yale. Of the 610 schools surveyed in the special report, Williams College, a small private liberal arts college located in Massachusetts, was the number one-ranked school.

Interestingly, the survey – prepared by Forbes Magazine in conjunction with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity – took into account rankings found on the popular website With 17.5% of the total score coming from data from, Professors and college administrators are likely to start taking a lot of notice of this website, which in the past may have been dismissed as a novelty or distraction. The reported salaries of alumni on were also given high importance, making up 15% of the total score.

America’s Best Colleges and Universities: Top 50 List

  • Williams College
  • Princeton University
  • Amherst College
  • United States Military Academy
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • Swarthmore College
  • Harvard University
  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Yale University
  • United States Air Force Academy
  • Wellesley College
  • Columbia University
  • Haverford College
  • Wesleyan University
  • Whitman College
  • Pomona College
  • Northwestern University
  • California Institute of Technology
  • University of Chicago
  • Carleton College
  • Harvey Mudd College
  • Vassar College
  • Centre College
  • Rice University
  • Middlebury College
  • Boston College
  • Colgate University
  • United States Naval Academy
  • Dartmouth College
  • Colby College
  • Kenyon College
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Tufts University
  • Smith College
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Washington and Lee University
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • College of the Holy Cross
  • Bowdoin College
  • Duke University
  • Wabash College
  • Vanderbilt University
  • University of Virginia
  • Brown University
  • College of William and Mary
  • Rhodes College
  • Davidson College
  • Union College
  • Lawrence University

America’s Best Colleges: The Cost of an Education

With just over 2,000 undergraduate students and a student-to-faculty ratio of 7 to 1, Williams College offers its students a unique and personalized educational experience. But it is an experience they must be prepared to pay for, with annual fees running at $49,530. The only college inside the Top 50 with fees of less than $38,000 (excluding military academies) was Wabash College in Indiana, with students expected to pay $37,500 each year. The most expensive college in America is Sarah Lawrence College in New York State. It also has one of the smallest student populations, with just 1,700 students enrolled at one time.

Is Coastal Carolina University America’s Worst School?

Of the 610 universities and colleges included in the survey, Coastal Carolina University ranked in 610th place. Coastal Caroline University, which describes itself as ‘dynamic, public liberal arts institution located in Conway, just minutes from Myrtle Beach’ is an independent, state-supported university with just over 8,000 students. Despite its poor ranking, undergraduates will still pay heavily for their degrees with fees topping $30,000.

America’s Best Colleges and Universities: What Factors Matter?

The America’s Best Colleges 2021 study, completed by Forbes Magazine in conjunction with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, aimed to evaluate the following important questions:

  • Do students enjoy their classes and overall academic experience?
  • Do graduates succeed well in their occupations after college?
  • Do most students graduate in a timely fashion, typically four years?
  • Do students incur massive debts while in schools?
  • Do students succeed in distinguishing themselves academically?

To answer these questions, the colleges and universities were examined against five key criteria areas:

  • No. 1: Student Satisfaction (27.5%)
    Student Evaluations from (17.5%)
    Freshman-to-Sophomore Retention Rates (5%)

Student Evaluations from (5%)

  • No. 2: Postgraduate Success (30%)
    Salary of Alumni from (15%)

Listings of Alumni in Who's Who in America (10%)

Alumni in Forbes/CCAP Corporate Officers List (5%)

  • No. 3: Student Debt (17.5%)
    Four-year Debt Load for Typical Student Borrower (12.5%)

Student Loan Default Rates (5%)

  • No. 4: Four-year Graduation Rate (17.5%)
    Actual Four-year Graduation Rate (8.75%)

Predicted vs. Actual Four-year Graduation Rate (8.75%)

  • No. 5: Competitive Awards (7.5%)
    Student Nationally Competitive Awards (7.5%)


'America's Best Colleges', Forbes Magazine, 11 August 2021.

Center for College Affordability and Productivity staff, ‘The complete methodology for America's Best Colleges 2021,’ 11 August 2021.

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