Author: Henry Dickmeyer
Occidental College was listed as one of the 75 “Best Value Private Colleges for 2012” by the Princeton Review on Feb. 7. This is the first time Occidental has been highlighted as a “best value” college by the organization.
For its “best value” rankings, the Princeton Review uses a specific metric for 650 colleges in its study of institutions that have a reputation for academic excellence. Academics, cost of attendance and financial aid are the three primary areas taken into account each year by the college advising company in determining what makes a college “valued.” However, unlike rankings from other companies, “value” rankings put more emphasis on the college’s affordability and financial aid programs.
The review also takes into account debt amount by graduating seniors and the percentage of students who borrow through loan programs, according to Occidental’s Director of Communications Jim Tranquada.
“We recommend these extraordinary colleges as our ‘best buys’ for 2012 and salute them for all they are doing to keep costs down and/ or offer generous aid to applicants with financial need,” Princeton Review’s Senior Vice President Robert Franek said, in the Princeton Review’s release of the “Best Value” list.
The Princeton Review gave the Office of Financial Aid a score of 97 out of 100. Occidental’s inclusion as a “value” school reflects its commitment to meeting the financial needs of its students. Merit and need-based scholarships are available to students who qualify, and additional self-help financial aid, such as loans and work study, which make the student responsible for his or her financial aid, round out the package. Occidental focuses more on grant and scholarship offers, as opposed to items that may result in debt upon graduation.
“Strong financial aid programs and solid academic offerings also allow a student to graduate within four years, saving the family money but also allowing the student to get into the work force or onto a graduate program without delay,” said Maureen McRae, the college’s Director of Financial Aid.
In addition to Princeton Review’s recent rankings, “Kiplinger’s Personal Finance” last November placed Occidental as No. 49 on its list of 100 “best value” liberal arts colleges. The last few years have also put Occidental in the U.S. News & World Report, Forbes Magazine’s “America’s Best Colleges,” and the Princeton Review’s “The Best 376 Colleges.”
A USA Today report in the Spring of 2012 surveyed students at a variety of colleges on what characteristics, in addition to academics and financial aid, should be taken into account when choosing a “best value” institution.
While students in the report believed cost of attendance, student/faculty ratio, debt, and SAT/ACT scores are “valued” factors, they also suggested more subjective factors that should be measured for the value rankings. The report said “happiness,” “clubs and opportunities” and “professional preparation” should be taken into account.
Occidental has also placed well in such rankings. Newsweek ranked Occidental as the 12th happiest school in the country last September.
This ranking considered both objective and subjective criteria. Subjective criteria included surveys about on-campus housing and campus dining, whereas objective criteria included average freshman retention rate, average graduate indebtedness, and even number of sunny daylight hours.
Occidental students view the college as a “value” less for its financial aid offerings and more for the options it presents.
“It’s worth the money if you take advantage of it,” Religious Studies major Momoko Matsuda (sophomore) said. “The professors are all smart and accessible. It’s worth paying for this environment.”
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