In its newly released 300 Best College Values for 2018, Kiplinger Personal Finance ranks Thomas Aquinas College as No. 14 among American colleges or universities, making it the highest-placed Catholic institution on the list.

Now in its 20th year, the Kiplinger guide highlights educational institutions that combine outstanding academics with affordable cost. In addition to placing Thomas Aquinas College in the top 20 nationwide, the guide lists it as No. 7 among liberal arts colleges — the only Catholic school to be named to the Top 10.

“We are delighted to receive Kiplinger’s recognition,” says Admissions Director Jon Daly.  “We consider it an affirmation of our founders’ conviction that the best way to achieve academic excellence is not to abandon the Church’s moral and intellectual patrimony, but to embrace it.”

Excellent academics are a prerequisite for making the Kiplinger list, as is affordability. “We start with a universe of nearly 1,200 schools and trim the list using measures of academic quality,” says Mark Solheim, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. “We then rank the schools based on cost and financial aid data.” To measure academic quality, the editors evaluate quantifiable information such as admission rates, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, and student-faculty ratios. In determining affordability, they consider sticker price, financial aid, and average debt at graduation.

Distinguishing itself from most other college guides, Kiplinger also includes four-year graduation rates in its affordability criteria. Nationwide, just 39.4 percent of American college students graduate in four years, compared to 75 percent of the students at Thomas Aquinas College. As a result, the total cost of education at a typical public or private college, even if its tuition rate is nominally lower than the College’s, is oftentimes higher, because students must pay for 2-4 additional semesters. This delay also comes with the opportunity cost of missed time in the workforce after graduation.

“No single college guide can give the full measure of a school, but taken together, the various guides help to form a more complete picture,” says Mr. Daly. “Our high rankings from the Princeton ReviewACTA, and U.S. News & World Report, for example, speak to the College’s academic reputation. Our inclusion in the Cardinal Newman Society and National Catholic Register guides reflects our fidelity to the Catholic Church. And Kiplinger, like CNBC and WalletHub, speaks to the value of our academic program, made possible by the College’s many generous benefactors.”

Since its founding, Thomas Aquinas College has maintained a policy of never turning away a student on the basis of financial need, a policy made possible by its generous benefactors. It also caps student debt at $18,000 over four years.