Spending Wisely: 10 Colleges that Spend the Most Money on their Students

Here at Noodle, we have a little bit of a love/hate relationship with the old college ranking game. It's important to have some way for prospective students and counselors to understand which schools offer high quality academics to students who are happy to be there. There's no question that any student wants to learn in an engaged, quality environment. But does that mean you'll automatically get a better education at say, Amherst (#2 in U.S. News) than down the road at ultra-liberal Hampshire (#110) or all-women Mt. Holyoke (#29) even though students at all three schools frequently enroll in each other's classes, use each other's libraries, and study at the same coffee shops?

In case you hadn't noticed, our entire website, our raison d'etre if you will, is devoted to the idea that school is not a one size fits all endeavor. Which is precisely why rankings are misleading: there's no such thing as THE best school, but there is such a thing as a good school. Schools that spend the money they charge for tuition on things that genuinely help their students, such as professors, library resources, sports equipment and financial aid are schools we would consider "good." High student retention rates between freshman and sophmore year is generally a good indicator that a school's freshman students are happy at the school. Below are the top 10 liberal arts schools according to these criteria.

So which schools spend the most money on their students?

Williams College

Instructional Expenditures (Per Student): $30,323

Student-Related Expenditures (Per Student): $44,777

Percent of Students who Return for Sophmore year: 97%

Pomona College

Instructional Expenditures: $24,967

Student-Related Expenditures: $37,218

Percent of Students who Return for Sophmore Year: 97%

Vassar College

Instructional Expenditures: $22, 866

Student-Related Expenditures: $32,930

Percent of Students who Return for Sophomore Year: 96%

U.S. Naval Academy

Instructional expenditures: $31,293

Student-Related Expenditures: $59,048

Percent of Students who Return for Sophomore Year: 96%

Swarthmore College

Instructional Expenditures: $24,746

Student-Related Expenditures: $38,414

Percent of Students who Return for Sophmore Year: 96%

Amherst College

Instructional Expenditures: $22,177

Student-Related Expenditures: $41,224

Percent of Students who Return for Sophmore Year: 96%

Wellesley College

Instructional Expenditures: $26,631

Student-Related Expenditures: $33,707

_Percent of Students who Return for Sophomore Year: _94%

Middlebury College

Instructional Expenditures: $23,762

Student-Related Expenditures: $41,167

Percent of Students who Return for Sophomore Year: 95%

Harvey Mudd College

Instructional Expenditures: $22,190

Student-Related Expenditures: $33,792

Percent of Students who Return for Sophomore Year: 96%

Wesleyan University

Instructional Expenditures: $22,126

Student-Related Expenditures: $28,979

Percent of Students who Return for Sophomore Year: 95%

How did we decide?

We made a list of the top 15 schools in the following three categories according to 2009 data from The Education Trust: Instructional Expenditures, Student expenditures, and the average amount of financial aid the school offered per student. Then we compared the schools on those lists, with the schools that had the highest 1st year retention rates and 4 year graduation rates. The schools that appeared the most frequently and the highest on these lists appear above.

Not sure which school will make you the happiest? Try our College Wizard and find schools that fit your personality and interests!

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