Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine: Best College Values, 2018 [which ranks Swarthmore second among private liberal arts colleges and third overall among all colleges and universities]
Outstanding academics, including a 13 percent admission rate, an eight-to-one student-faculty ratio, and an impressive 88 percent four-year graduation rate, help Swarthmore College excel in our rankings. This small liberal arts college with Quaker roots, located 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia, attracts exemplary students. More than 60 percent of incoming freshmen score 700 or higher on the critical-reading portion of the SAT and more than one-third of incoming students score top marks on the math portion. Once on campus, students can select from more than 500 courses in more than 40 areas of study or select additional courses through the school's agreement with nearby Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges (numbers 45 and 31 on our combined list, respectively) or the University of Pennsylvania (number 41). When they're not in class, Swatties can explore the school's 425-acre campus, which includes Scott Arboretum and Crum Creek, or hop a train from the station on the edge of campus for the 30-minute ride to Philly's Center City.
The smallest school in our top 10 offers a big value on the financial side, too. More than half of students qualify for need-based aid and the average need-based aid award cuts the school's sticker price to less than $22,000 a year. Like many of the schools near the top of our best value list, Swarthmore's financial aid packages keep loans off the table, instead awarding all aid in the form of scholarships and grants. Roughly one-third of students still borrow, but the average debt at graduation among those students is nearly $10,000 less than the national average ($32,000) for private school borrowers.