Juniata No. 10 for best value

The White House touts higher education as the clearest path into the middle class. But the continually climbing price of college tuition has been viewed as obstacles on that path.

This month, the finance website NerdWallet published a study of the 15 Pennsylvania colleges that offer the most pay back on a college investment. The company analyzes net price, graduation rate and loan default rate.

Juniata College is No. 10 on the list. Its net price is $23,814 per year. All but two colleges in the top 15 Pennsylvania schools are private schools.

“While private colleges are often stigmatized for their high price tags, Pennsylvania schools prove that private colleges sometimes offer the best value education,” the study states. “Pennsylvania colleges appear to be successfully addressing how to repay student loans on time. All schools in the top 15 had loan default rates below 5 percent.”

Juniata College President Jim Troha said Juniata’s ability to ensure students graduate on time sets it apart from large public schools.

“At the end of the day, our students are able to graduate in four years. As it relates to public schools, that is a distinct advantage we have,” he said. “Students maneuver through our system quicker than in larger universities. That means one less year of tuition and one more year of earning power.”

The college also gives generous grants, the study states. In the 2011-12 year, all students received a grant award, averaging $19,488, according to the study.

Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh are the only two public universities to make it onto NerdWallet’s top 15 “Biggest Bang for Your Buck” colleges in Pennsylvania.

Penn State University Park is No. 5 on the list. Its net price is $21,342 per year.

“Many students benefit from the university’s extensive network of commonwealth campuses, which help to keep costs low by allowing students to attend college close to home for two years and then transfer to the flagship campus for their remaining years of study. At University Park, 69 percent of students receive financial aid and 37 percent receive grants,” the study states.

Across the nation, when room and board are included, total charges at public four-year institutions rose more rapidly in the decade from 2003-04 to 2013-14 than they did during the two preceding decades, according to the CollegeBoard advocacy and policy center.

Net-prices at leading colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are expensive compared with nationwide competitors.

“The average net-price for these Pennsylvania top 15 schools is $24,064 whereas the national average is $12,460,” NerdWallet Communications expert Danielle Lichliter stated in an email. “This shows how expensive it is for students to attend college in Pennsylvania, and thus how important it is for them to find the best value school.”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.