The top 100 colleges and best in majors, with a lean to ROI, according to Niche

MIT leads this year's lists, which include the top party schools, dorms, student life, athletics and more.

Not to be outdone by its ratings rivals, the website Niche – a go-to for many students looking for more nuanced information on colleges and universities – has revealed its 2023 Best Colleges in America rankings with a focus on value.

According to Niche, those who are seeking the best return on investment and have the chops to compete at the highest academic levels should consider applying to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, its No. 1 this year. MIT beat out another esteemed research institution, Stanford University, which finished at No. 2 and was the top pick in the recent National University list from Washington Monthly. Harvard University came in at No. 3.

Niche used information gleaned from U.S. Department of Education statistics along with the American Community Survey (ACS), and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), but leaders said they tweaked this year’s formula to rely more heavily on ROI. Some of the measures that were given more weight included average ROI by age 30, median earnings the first year after graduation (and differences after Year 2), and employment data after two years.

“Even before the pandemic, high school students and their families were questioning the value of higher education, in large part due to how expensive it’s become in the past 20 years or so,” said Ryan Bell, principal strategist at Niche, noting the sizeable increases in tuition and fee costs across higher education. “Our updates to our value methodology come at a time when prospective college students are more intent on choosing a school that will yield a good return on investment than ever before.”

But when it comes to value, there isn’t much debate from any of the lists which institutions rise to the top. Niche’s top 20 includes five more Ivy League schools – Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Penn, Columbia – and stellar privates Duke, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Chicago, Harvey Mudd College, the University of Notre Dame and Pomona College. Perhaps the biggest surprise mover is acclaimed Rice University, which was installed at No. 6 (U.S. News had it at No. 17 last year), although in its ranking of best private institutions, The Princeton Review had it at No. 9. How good is the ROI at Rice? According to the website College Factual, a degree from Rice is worth $2 million more than the investment made after 30 years. The best overall value college, if you can get in (based on net price, alumni earnings, graduation rates, and student debt) is the California Institute of Technology.

More from UB: The top 5 rankings in key categories from the Princeton Review

Many of the usual high-ranking suspects show up near the top of Niche’s overall list, including Johns Hopkins (No. 21) and Cornell University (No. 23). UCLA, which was No. 24 overall, was also its top choice for best public university, beating out the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor (No. 25). There were few unexpected twists, although the number of smaller private liberal arts schools in its top 50 were notable – Barnard, Davidson, Williams, Amherst and Middlebury – still showing historic presence and deep value against their counterparts.

Like Washington Monthly, Niche also rated Harvey Mudd and Pomona as its two top liberal arts colleges, but followed with Claremont McKenna, Bowdoin and Swarthmore. Its top five community colleges included two more California institutions – Foothill College at No. 1 and Santa Barbara Community College at No. 5 – with three Wisconsin two-year colleges in between (Northwood Technical College Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.)  The top Historically Black Colleges and Universities were Florida A&M University, Howard University and Alcorn State University in that order.


In key categories, Harvard ranked best in biology, economics, math, political science and philosophy, while MIT was first in engineering, computer science and chemistry. Penn (nursing and business) and Northwestern (communications and performing arts) each had two. Here are some of the others:

  • Agriculture: Cornell
  • Criminal Justice: Florida State University
  • Design: Washington University in St. Louis
  • Education: Vanderbilt
  • History: Yale
  • Information Technology: Carnegie Mellon
  • International Relations: Georgetown
  • Music: Curtis Institute of Music
  • Pharmacy: University of Michigan
  • Physics: Caltech
  • Psychology: Stanford
  • Public Health: Johns Hopkins
  • Public Policy: Duke
  • Sports Management: Rice


Best Colleges with no application fee: 1. U.S Military Academy at West Point. 2. Wellesley College. 3. Tulane University

Colleges with the best student life: 1. University of Southern California. 2. University of Georgia. 3. UCLA

Best college dorms: 1. Johnson University (TN). 2. Washington University in St. Louis. 3. High Point University (NC)

Top party schools: 1. UC-Santa Barbara. 2. Tulane University. 3. Florida State University

Best college food: 1. UCLA. 2. Virginia Tech. 3. UMass-Amherst

Best college athletics: 1. University of Florida. 2. University of Alabama. 3. Clemson University

Most diverse colleges: 1. Pomona College. 2. Andrews University (MI). 3. Lynn University (FL)

Colleges with the best professors: 1. Yale. 2. Columbia. 3. Brown


  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. Harvard University
  4. Yale University
  5. Princeton University
  6. Rice University
  7. California Institute of Technology
  8. Duke University
  9. Brown University
  10. Dartmouth College
  11. University of Pennsylvania
  12. Columbia University
  13. Vanderbilt University
  14. Northwestern University
  15. Washington University in St. Louis
  16. University of Chicago
  17. Georgetown University
  18. Harvey Mudd College
  19. University of Notre Dame
  20. Pomona College
  21. Johns Hopkins University
  22. Carnegie Mellon University
  23. Cornell University
  24. UCLA
  25. University of Michigan
  26. Georgia Institute of Technology
  27. University of Virginia
  28. University of Southern California
  29. Claremont McKenna College
  30. Bowdoin College
  31. Swarthmore College
  32. Barnard College
  33. Davidson College
  34. Emory University
  35. U.S. Military Academy
  36. Wellesley College
  37. Washington and Lee University
  38. Tufts University
  39. Boston College
  40.  Amherst College
  41. University of Florida
  42. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  43. Williams College
  44. Middlebury College
  45. Northeastern University
  46. University of Texas-Austin
  47. Boston University
  48. University of California-Berkeley
  49. Wake Forest University
  50. New York University
  51. Haverford College
  52. University of Georgia
  53. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  54. Colgate University
  55. Babson College
  56. Bates College
  57. University of Miami
  58. Hamilton College
  59. University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign
  60. Tulane University
  61. Florida State University
  62. Lehigh University
  63. College of William & Mary
  64. Penn State University
  65. Case Western Reserve
  66. University of California-Irvine
  67. Colby College
  68. Virginia Tech
  69. Villanova University
  70. University of Washington
  71. Wesleyan University
  72. University of Rochester
  73. Grinnell College
  74. Vassar College
  75. Texas A&M University
  76. University of California-San Diego
  77. Carleton College
  78. The Cooper Union
  79. Purdue University
  80. The Ohio State University
  81. University of Richmond
  82. Southern Methodist University
  83. North Carolina State University
  84. Macalester College
  85. University of California-Davis
  86. Smith College
  87. Kenyon College
  88. College of the Holy Cross
  89. University of California-Santa Barbara
  90. University of Pittsburgh
  91. Pitzer College
  92. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  93. Lafayette College
  94. Bucknell University
  95. George Washington University
  96. Colorado School of Mines
  97. University of South Florida
  98. Brigham Young University
  99. Trinity University
  100. University of Maryland-College Park
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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