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This year it comes down to small, student-centric, liberal arts colleges vs. large, brainy, research-oriented universities closely associated with science, technology, engineering and math. The ''FORBES'' 7th annual Top Colleges ranking reveals higher education in flux, ongoing debate between the value of liberal arts vs. STEM degrees and a winning formula of high student satisfaction and graduation rates, alumni career success and low student debt.

Rank Name State (U.S.A) Website
1 Williams College Massachusetts
2 Stanford University California
3 Swarthmore College Pennsylvania
4 Princeton University New Jersey
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts
6 Yale University Connecticut
7 Harvard University Massachusetts
8 Pomona College California
9 United States Military Academy New York
10 Amherst College Massachusetts
11 Haverford College Pennsylvania
12 University of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania
13 Brown University Rhode Island
14 Bowdoin College Maine
15 Wesleyan University Connecticut
16 Carleton College Minnesota
17 University of Notre Dame Indiana
18 Dartmouth College New Hampshire
19 Northwestern University Illinois
20 Columbia University New York