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America’s Top Colleges 2021: For The First Time A Public School Is Number One

Announcing America's top colleges of 2021:

9/15/2021 2:32:00 AM

Announcing America 's top colleges of 2021:

This year we’re rewarding schools whose ROI benefits the most students, not a privileged few. For the first time, a public school tops the list, besting all the Ivies—including Harvard .

ByChristian KreznarPublic universities can deliver the most outstanding education to the broadest range of students at the most affordable price. That’s the message of Forbes’ 2021 ranking of top colleges.For the first time ever on a national ranking of America’s best colleges, a public school, the University of California at Berkeley, is in the No. 1 spot (In 2009 West Point topped our list, but military academies are slightly different animals). Of the top 25 schools in the Forbes ranking, six are public, including three other U.C.s, the University of Michigan and the University of Florida.

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Harvard, which has been a perennial No. 1 in the Forbes ranking and in other closely watched lists, has fallen to No. 7.See Full List Here.How did this happen? We took the pandemic year to re-evaluate (we suspended the list in 2020). As we watched Covid turn higher ed upside down, we realized we needed to update the way we measure the best colleges in America. 

It isn’t enough to ask which schools give the best return on investment. It’s also important to evaluate what kind of students they educate and whether they make themselves accessible to those who can’t afford high sticker prices. Even if, like Harvard, they promise to pay full freight for the low-income applicants they accept, do they take enough disadvantaged students to make that promise meaningful? headtopics.com

U.C. Berkeley does a much better job at this than does Harvard. At Berkeley, 27% of undergraduates receive federal Pell Grants, aimed at helping low- and moderate-income students pay for college. At Harvard, by contrast, the share of Pell students is just 12%. (On average, 25% of students enrolled in our 600 Top Colleges received Pell Grants.) The five U.S. Military Service Academies—including West Point—are free and do not offer Pell Grants, although students pay by serving in the military for five to eight years after graduation.

At Berkeley, 27% of undergraduates receive federal Pell Grants, aimed at helping low- and moderate-income students pay for college.Getty Images Read more: Forbes »

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America’s Top Colleges 2021: For The First Time A Public School Is Number OneThis year we’re rewarding schools whose ROI benefits the most students, not a privileged few. For the first time, a public school tops the list, besting all the Ivies—including Harvard .