The 10 US colleges where students get the best education for the lowest price

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Princeton grads Princeton University/Facebook Half of the schools are Ivy League.

College is an investment.

The cost of a four-year degree in America is higher than ever, and students are borrowing tons of money to fund it - sending the nation's total student loan debt soaring past $1.3 trillion .

But steep costs alone don't equal high quality. To make the most of your investment, you want to find a college that offers an excellent education for the lowest price possible.

On Tuesday, U.S. News & World Report released its best-value colleges list for 2018 , ranking the top universities with both high-quality academics and low costs for the average undergraduate student who receives need-based financial aid.

Only schools ranked in the top half of the 2018 best national universities ranking were considered for this list.

For each of the schools, U.S. News considered three factors :

  • Ratio of quality to price : A school's overall best colleges ranking score (out of 100) divided by the net cost for the average student receiving need-based financial aid.
  • Need-based aid : The percentage of undergraduates receiving need-based scholarships or grants during the 2016-2017 academic year.
  • Average discount : The percentage of a school's 2016-2017 total sticker cost - tuition, room and board, fees, books and other expenses - that was covered by the average need-based aid.

Topping the best-value colleges list for national universities is Princeton University, which also took the top spot in the overall best colleges list . Ivy Leagues Harvard and Yale round out the top three.

Below, check out the list of the top 10 best colleges for your money, according to U.S. News.

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1. Princeton University

1. Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Overall rank: 1

Percent receiving need-based aid: 60%

Average cost after need-based grants: $16,793

2. Harvard University

2. Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Overall rank: 2

Percent receiving need-based aid: 55%

Average cost after need-based grants: $16,338

3. Yale University

3. Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Overall rank: 3 (tie)

Percent receiving need-based aid: 50%

Average cost after need-based grants: $18,385

4. Stanford University

4. Stanford University

Stanford, California

Overall rank: 5 (tie)

Percent receiving need-based aid: 47%

Average cost after need-based grants: $19,296

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Overall rank: 5 (tie)

Percent receiving need-based aid: 58%

Average cost after need-based grants: $20,331

6. Columbia University

6. Columbia University

New York, New York

Overall rank: 5 (tie)

Percent receiving need-based aid: 48%

Average cost after need-based grants: $21,041

7. Dartmouth College

7. Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

Overall rank: 11

Percent receiving need-based aid: 50%

Average cost after need-based grants: $23,312

8. California Institute of Technology

8. California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, California

Overall rank: 10

Percent receiving need-based aid: 51%

Average cost after need-based grants: $23,973

9. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

9. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Overall rank: 30

Percent receiving need-based aid: 41%

Average cost after need-based grants: $17,815

10. Duke University

10. Duke University

Durham, North Carolina

Overall rank: 9

Percent receiving need-based aid: 41%

Average cost after need-based grants: $23,374

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