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Small colleges secure positions in top 10 on Forbes' list of top colleges

Is college still a good investment?According to a November 2011 report issued by the Project on Student debt, two-thirds of 2010 college graduates carried an av

Is college still a good investment?

According to a November 2011 report issued by the Project on Student debt, two-thirds of 2010 college graduates carried an average of $25,250 in debt. With a stumbling economy, getting a college degree appears to be only part of the battle.

Forbes recently released its 2012 list of top U.S. colleges, and it took several social factors into account. Randall Lane, the magazine’s editor, explained to the Morning Joe panel that “a lot of these rankings are about reputation,” and that’s exactly what Forbes stayed away from when creating the list.

“Who cares,” Lane said about the selectivity of prestigious schools. Instead, it’s about what happens after students graduate.

The magazine based its rankings on five categories—post-graduate success, student satisfaction, debt, four-year graduation rate and competitive awards. Although some Ivy Leagues, such as Columbia and Yale, rounded out the top 10, Pomona College, a small liberal college in Claremont, Calif., secured the ninth spot. Guest host Lawrence O’Donnell expressed his surprise at the ranking but Lane commented that students in smaller schools seemed happier.

Lane also pointed out that No. 2 Williams College (alma mater of Morning Joe's Mika Brzezinski), another small school (student population in 2009: 2,124 undergraduate students and 49 graduate students), had a 91 percent success rate in pushing students to graduate in four years. He also reminded the panel that getting into college doesn’t secure jobs after graduation. Students can graduate with degrees that may cost a mint, but many are unemployed and struggling with debt. (The Huffington Post's Sam Stein said roughly the same earlier this morning about his younger brother and his brother's friends.)

Forbes released its list to act as a guide for those students questioning where they should spend their collegiate career.

Related link: Jane Lynch talks about the launch of, which assesses college loans providing students and parents with resources on “how to deal with it” and “what products are best,” so they enter school with “eyes wide open” about debt.