PhotoIf you’re going to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to secure a college degree, getting the best return on investment (ROI) takes on added importance.

Each year, The Princeton Review ranks 200 U.S. colleges for ROI, looking not only at costs but also salaries earned by graduates. In short, The Review is a guide for college-shoppers looking for an affordable, academically outstanding college that has a record of guiding students to rewarding careers.

Only 200 schools make the cut. They’re selected on an analysis of things like covered academics, cost, financial aid, career services, graduation rates, student debt, and alumni support.

Making the list doesn’t mean a school is among the least expensive to attend. It only means that, in the opinion of the editors, it’s worth the money.

"Only 7 percent of the nation's four-year colleges made it into this book," said Robert Franek, its lead author and The Princeton Review's editor-in-chief. "We salute them for their stellar academics and generous aid awards to students based on need and/or merit. They also provide their undergrads with career services from day one plus strong networks of alumni connections."

Several different lists

The book is not a single list but a number of them, with the editors ranking schools on different criteria. There is an overall main ranking list and it places the California Institute of Technology in the top spot. Stanford was second, followed by Princeton and MIT.

Internships have been proven to be an effective pathway to securing a good job after graduation, and The Princeton Review ranks colleges on their ability to help students become interns. Bentley University is number one, followed by Franklin W. Olin College, Wabash College, and the University of Richmond.

Just as important is assistance in getting jobs for graduates. Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, Calif., ranks first, followed by the California Institute of Technology, Stanford, and MIT.

Best financial aid

If you are looking for a school with a generous financial aid package, there’s a list for that as well. Bowdoin College of Brunswick, Maine is at the top of the list for financial aid. It’s followed by Vassar, Princeton, and Yale.

Other categories include the best alumni network, where Pennsylvania State University ranks first; and best schools for making an impact -- a list led by Wesleyan University.

Of the 200 schools in the book, 137 are private and 63 are public institutions. The average cost of attending for in-state schools receiving need-based aid is $12,972 a year. The average admission rate is 54 percent, with 13 schools admitting over 70 percent who apply.

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