Whitman College has once again been named one of the nation’s 50 “Best Value” private colleges and universities by the Princeton Review. Whitman is the only private college in the Pacific Northwest to appear on the annual ranking of “Best Value Colleges for 2011,” which includes 50 public and 50 private institutions.

Schools are selected based on criteria that reflect academics, cost of attendance and financial aid. The methodology examined more than 30 factors using data from surveys of administrators and students at 650 colleges with strong academic programs. Most of the data analyzed came from surveys conducted from fall 2009 through fall 2010; all cost and financial aid data came from fall 2010 surveys.

The Princeton Review partners with USA Today to publish the Best Value schools. The Web site reports that the factors most influencing Whitman’s “Bang for your buck” include the college’s suite of scholarships. Specifically noted among the array of need- and merit-based scholarships Whitman offers, the ranking highlights the Paul Garrett Scholarship for men, the Claire Sherwood Memorial Scholarship for Women and the Eells Scholarship.

“This ranking is a recognition of the academic excellence of a Whitman education as well as the financial aid support the college offers,” said Tony Cabasco, dean of admission and financial aid. “For the 2010-2011 academic year, Whitman granted more than $23 million in need- and merit-based scholarships. As a result of the generous donors who have made this aid possible, we are able to enroll a diverse student population, making a Whitman education accessible and affordable to many talented students.”

Cabasco cites a number of indicators of Whitman’s overall value, including retention and graduation rates that are among the highest in the nation and a network of dedicated alumni who continue to support the college through annual gifts and volunteer support. “The enduring support of Whitman alumni is exceeded by only a handful of schools across the nation. Our alumni understand the unique value of a Whitman education and they generously give of themselves to ensure that other students have the same opportunities,” he said.

In addition to financial support and academic rigor, the ranking also highlights several valuable amenities and services that are part of the “Whitman experience.” These include “free laundry, free parking (and no permits needed on campus anywhere) and free admission to most ticketed events. Both the library and the student health center are open 24/7 during the academic year.”

Robert Franek, Princeton Review senior vice president of publishing, said, “While a college education is undeniably a valuable investment, paying for college is challenging for most parents.  Among the 12,000 respondents to our 2010  ‘College Hopes & Worries Survey’ of college applicants and their parents, 86% told us financial aid would be 'very necessary' to foot the bill.  For them and for all families seeking academically outstanding colleges that have been exceptional at meeting their students' needs for financial aid, we’re pleased to have teamed up with USA Today to identify and recommend these 100 institutions as ‘Best Value’ colleges.”

Whitman’s “Best Value” ranking follows a number of recent accolades for the college from Princeton Review, including the annual list of “The Best 373 Colleges,” for which Whitman recently placed in the top-20 of six categories. The college was also included in the organization’s “Best Colleges in the West” ranking, which features “stand out” colleges and universities within each region.

To read USA Today’s coverage of the ranking, click here.

— Joe Gurriere