By Haddon Libby

Forbes recently completed a survey ranking 650 of the best colleges and universities in the country for 2014. The ranking considered a mix of factors that go into a student’s success while learning as well as their post-educational success at their chosen career path.

Topping the list was Williams College, located in Williamstown, MA. Williams has a student population of 2,124 and student to faculty ratio of 7. Annual cost is $61,850. Impressively, 96% of all students stay for all four years of their undergraduate degrees.

The top school in California and #2 on the list was Stanford University. They rank as the top research university in the United States. Stanford also has the fourth largest endowment of all universities at $18.7 billion.

In general, twenty-two schools control 50% of the country’s $447 billion of endowments. Harvard, which is 7th in this year’s ranking, has the largest endowment at $32.3 billion followed by Yale (6th ranked) at $20.8 billion and the University of Texas system at $20.5 billion (highest ranked school being UT-Austin at 76th).

Only 8% of all Princeton students (ranked 4th) had to take out loans last year. Yale came in second at 9%.

Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania ranked 3rd on this year’s list, with 20% of their undergraduates going on to receive doctorates (Ph.D).

The highest rated free school was the U.S. Military Academy located in West Point, NY. Ranked 9th, only 9% of all admissions applications are accepted.

Some other California schools in the Forbes ranking included Pomona College at 8th, Cal Institute of Technology at 21st, UC-Berkeley at 37th, UCLA 44th, Harvey Mudd 52nd, Scripps 69th, USC 78th, Occidental 80th, Santa Clara 86th, Pepperdine 112th, UC-Davis 113th, UC-Santa Barbara 116th, Redlands 123rd, UC-San Diego 126th, UC-Irvine 144th, Cal Poly 157th, Loyola 183rd, USF 214th, UC-Santa Cruz 218th, St. Mary’s 219th, USD 223rd, SDSU 262nd, UC-Riverside 263rd, Cal State Pomona 273rd, Whittier 277nd, Cal Lutheran 281st, Mills 291st, Chapman 321st, CSU-Fullerton 338th and CSU-San Bernardino at 409th.

Worth noting, community colleges like College of the Desert were not included in the ranking. One California school was amongst the four schools excluded from this year’s rankings due to the falsification of data used in last year’s rankings – Claremont-McKenna. Other less than honest schools were Bucknell, Emory and Iona.

As for the survey’s methodology in determining which schools were the best, student evaluations of teachers and professors represents 10% of the score. Retention rates or the percentage of students who do not transfer to another school or drop out accounts for 15% of the score.

Success by school alumni represents nearly one-third of the overall score. Compensation by graduates represents 10% of the score with the other 22.5% being a composite of lists and awards that represent success in the career of a school’s alum.

Student financial health after graduation represents 25% of the ranking. As such, the rankings consider the average student debt load, default rates on student debt and percentage of students taking loans. The theory behind this component of the scoring system is that student’s with low to no debt are more successful than those with debt. I personally believe that low to no debt more likely a sign that the student comes from a family of affluence – another factor in success.

Lastly, academic success as measure by awards represents 10% of the score while graduation rates account for 7.5% of the ranking.

A full list of the 650 schools in this survey along with more detailed information on each school can be found at www.forbes.com.

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