Forbes lists best colleges, universities for 2016

Students walk outside Parrish Hall at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.,  Sept. 17, 2007. Swarthmore College is one of an increasing number of colleges traditionally known for the humanities, English, history, philosophy that are creating a niche for engineering students. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Swarthmore College ranks number 10 in Forbes’ ninth annual list of the nation’s top 25 colleges and universities.

In this photo, students walk outside Parrish Hall at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, Sept. 17, 2007. Swarthmore College is one of an increasing number of colleges traditionally known for the humanities, English, history, philosophy that are creating a niche for engineering students. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

MIDDLETOWN, CT - MAY 25:  Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) delivers the commencement address at Wesleyan University May 25, 2008 in Middletown, Connecticut. Obama is stepping in for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed this week with a cancerous brain tumor.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Wesleyan University ranks number nine.

In this photo, back when he was still Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), he delivered the commencement address at Wesleyan University May 25, 2008 in Middletown, Connecticut. Obama stepped in for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed that week with a cancerous brain tumor. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ariel Schecter, a recent Brown University graduate, works on reconstructing an art project "Incandescence", which he collaborated on with Schuyler Maclay, not pictured, in one of the spaces in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, on the Brown University campus in Providence, R.I., Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. The 39,000-square-foot concrete and steel building will be a venue for performances and art exhibits, as well as classroom space for subjects as varied as robotics and music. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Brown University clocks in at number eight.

In this photo, Ariel Schecter, a recent Brown University graduate, works on reconstructing an art project “Incandescence”, which he collaborated on with Schuyler Maclay, not pictured, in one of the spaces in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, on the Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island, Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. The 39,000-square-foot concrete and steel building is a venue for performances and art exhibits, as well as classroom space for subjects as varied as robotics and music. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Pomona College in Claremont, California, comes in at number seven. “Students all over the world are increasingly drawn to the nowness of the West Coast,” Forbes said in announcing the list. (AP/Stew Milne)
NEW HAVEN, CT - APRIL 16:  Trees bloom on the campus of Yale University April 16, 2008 in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven boasts many educational and cultural offerings that attract visitors to the city.    (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)
Connecticut’s Yale University ranks number six on Forbes’ list.

In this photo, trees bloom on the campus of Yale University April 16, 2008 in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven, boasts many educational and cultural offerings that attract visitors to the city. (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE, MA - FEBRUARY 22:  The Ray and Maria Stata Center is shown on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology February 22, 2006 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute admitted its first students in 1865 and continues with the mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks number five.

In this photo, The Ray and Maria Stata Center is shown on the campus of MIT, Feb. 22, 2006 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute admitted its first students in 1865 and continues with the mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CAMBRIDGE, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Harvard University's Kirkland House is seen on October 10, 2003 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  (Photo by William B. Plowman/Getty Images)
Another Massachusetts school, Harvard University, ranks number four. Forbes says the distinguishing characteristic of their rankings is return on investment.

In this photo, the university’s Kirkland House is seen on October 10, 2003 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by William B. Plowman/Getty Images)

People use umbrellas as they walk at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
At number three, Princeton University edges towards the top. This year, liberal arts schools take 11 of the top-25 slots, the same as last year and down from 13 in 2014, Forbes writes. They also found the best return on investment came from small private schools.

In this photo, people use umbrellas as they walk at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

A permanent exhibit is seen at The Chapin Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. Monday, Jan. 22, 2007, that features signatory Joseph Hewes' copy of the Declaration of Independence; George Washington's copy of the Federalist and original printings of the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. (AP Photo/Nathaniel Brooks)
Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, ranks number two on the list.

In this photo, a permanent exhibit is seen at The Chapin Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Monday, Jan. 22, 2007, that features signatory Joseph Hewes’ copy of the Declaration of Independence; George Washington’s copy of the Federalist and original printings of the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. (AP Photo/Nathaniel Brooks)

Stanford University tops the Forbes list of the 25 best collegs and universities in America. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Stanford University tops the Forbes list of the 25 best collegs and universities in America. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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Students walk outside Parrish Hall at Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.,  Sept. 17, 2007. Swarthmore College is one of an increasing number of colleges traditionally known for the humanities, English, history, philosophy that are creating a niche for engineering students. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
MIDDLETOWN, CT - MAY 25:  Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) delivers the commencement address at Wesleyan University May 25, 2008 in Middletown, Connecticut. Obama is stepping in for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed this week with a cancerous brain tumor.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Ariel Schecter, a recent Brown University graduate, works on reconstructing an art project "Incandescence", which he collaborated on with Schuyler Maclay, not pictured, in one of the spaces in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, on the Brown University campus in Providence, R.I., Monday, Feb. 7, 2011. The 39,000-square-foot concrete and steel building will be a venue for performances and art exhibits, as well as classroom space for subjects as varied as robotics and music. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
NEW HAVEN, CT - APRIL 16:  Trees bloom on the campus of Yale University April 16, 2008 in New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven boasts many educational and cultural offerings that attract visitors to the city.    (Photo by Christopher Capozziello/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - FEBRUARY 22:  The Ray and Maria Stata Center is shown on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology February 22, 2006 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute admitted its first students in 1865 and continues with the mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CAMBRIDGE, MA - OCTOBER 10:  Harvard University's Kirkland House is seen on October 10, 2003 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  (Photo by William B. Plowman/Getty Images)
People use umbrellas as they walk at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A permanent exhibit is seen at The Chapin Library of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. Monday, Jan. 22, 2007, that features signatory Joseph Hewes' copy of the Declaration of Independence; George Washington's copy of the Federalist and original printings of the Articles of Confederation, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. (AP Photo/Nathaniel Brooks)
Stanford University tops the Forbes list of the 25 best collegs and universities in America. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

WASHINGTON — Forbes has come out with its ninth annual list of the nation’s top 25 colleges and universities, and finds a “small but significant” tilt to the West when it comes to elite higher education.

“Students all over the world are increasingly drawn to the nowness of the West Coast,” Forbes said in announcing the list.

Stanford University tops Forbes’ 2016 list, with Williams College in Massachusetts and Princeton University coming in behind. The top 10:

  1. Stanford University
  2. Williams College
  3. Princeton University
  4. Harvard University
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. Yale University
  7. Pomona College
  8. Brown University
  9. Wesleyan University
  10. Swarthmore College

Forbes says the distinguishing characteristic of their rankings is return on investment. They note that in the past 40 years, tuition and fees have risen 270 percent at public colleges and universities and 204 percent at private schools.

“We look at factors that directly concern students (and their families): Are current undergrads satisfied? Is it likely I’ll graduate on time or incur a ton of student debt? Will I get a good job and be a leader in my chosen profession?”

Toward that end, they found that graduates of Harvey Mudd College in California had an average midcareer salary of $133,000 a year, followed by the California Institute of Technology at $125,000 and MIT at $124,000.

Also, Forbes found a tension between liberal arts colleges and STEM-based schools. This year, liberal arts schools take 11 of the top-25 slots, the same as last year and down from 13 in 2014, Forbes writes. They also found the best return on investment came from small private schools.

The highest-ranking area school was Georgetown, coming in at No. 21. The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis was No. 24.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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