“America’s Top Colleges” rankings are based on five general categories: Post Graduate Success, including alumni in Who’s Who America and alumni salary via Payscale.com; Student Satisfaction, which includes professor evaluations from RateMyProfessor.com and freshman-to-sophomore retention rates; Student Debt, which takes into account average federal student loan debt load and student loan default rates; Four-year Graduation Rate; and Competitive Awards, which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Fulbright.

“America’s Top Colleges” assesses the quality of the educational experiences at more than 600 institutions nationwide. It also spotlights quality of teaching, great career prospects, and emphasizes financial prudence, particularly low levels of debt, so students can make an informed, consumer choice when it comes to selecting a college or university. The rankings 2011 were prepared exclusively for Forbes by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, a Washington, D.C.-based research center.

The complete list of “America’s Top Colleges” is at www.forbes.com/sites/michaelnoer/2011/08/03/americas-top-colleges.

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