It may not have the name recognition of a Harvard or Yale, but tiny Grinnell College, in central Iowa, attracts stellar students from around the country and the world for its broad-based liberal arts curriculum, tight-knit community and focus on social justice. "There are so many fixed ideas about which schools are the premier institutions," says Grinnell president Raynard S. Kington. "People are surprised to discover a diverse, accessible, Midwest-modest college in the middle of the prairie."
"Midwest-modest"—an amalgam of midwestern and small-town values—may be how Grinnell identifies itself, but make no mistake: Grinnell students are high achievers. Three-fourths of incoming freshmen score 30 or higher on the ACT. The school is a top producer of Fulbright scholars, and a high percentage of its undergraduates go on to earn a PhD. A fixture on Kiplinger's rankings for best value, Grinnell secures its spots on this year's lists (number nine on our liberal arts list and number 18 on our combined ranking) for its competitive acceptance rate (28%), low student-faculty ratio (nine to one) and generous financial aid (average need-based aid brings the net cost for families who qualify to $22,145 yearly).