Higher education is expensive. This we know.

What’s not so cut-and-dry is determining which colleges and universities offer the best value— meaning an affordable, quality education with promising career options.

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"MONEY"  magazine’s annual Best Colleges survey, released yesterday, considers just that — the comparative value of 1,500 colleges and universities nationwide. “Best” is determined by a whole host of factors, including alumni success, education quality and affordability.

Ranking number one overall was Princeton University, where 59 percent of students receive need-based financial aid and the average out of pocket cost is $20,100 per student — a steep difference from the $61,300 sticker price for the 2016-7 school year.

Berea College Brigham, Young University-Provo and College of the Ozarks were the top three most affordable private colleges, and among many lesser-known universities highlighted in the study. 

Strikingly, the study found that criteria often used to anoint a handful of schools as the cream of the crop — status, selectivity and sticker price — don’t often reveal much about the quality of the education, or the school’s potential for career preparedness.

This is refreshing. The most elite, selective schools have long been hyped as the “best” simply because they’re, well, elite and selective. But with a growing student debt crisis and a rocky job market, the definition of best is broadening.

Learning for learning’s sake is great, and the most important takeaways from a college education — personal growth, the ability to discuss critically and think trenchantly — can’t be quantified. That being said, sometimes a crucial question is glossed over in those glossy photos of pastoral campuses: After I graduate, will I be able to find a job?