High school seniors and their parents face that difficult question annually, but Time magazine may have found the surprising answer: University of California, Riverside.
The campus is often overshadowed by flashier UC peers like Berkeley and Los Angeles, but it scored highest in a simulation of President Barack Obama's proposed college ratings scorecard.
Announced last August to much controversy, the system would assess metrics such as graduation rate, tuition costs and percentage of students who receive Pell Grants, the federal low-income scholarship, to determine which schools offer the best value.
Several other UC campuses ranked in the top ten on Time's list, including San Diego at #2, Irvine at #4 and Davis at #6. California State University, Long Beach placed tenth. (For comparison, Stanford University, which was the most selective college in the country this year, was 46th.)
So far, UC President Janet Napolitano, whom Obama appointed to head the Department of Homeland Security, has been an outspoken critic of the proposed ratings system.
"I am deeply skeptical that there are criteria that can be developed that are in the end meaningful, because there will be so many exceptions, once you get down to it," she told the Washington Post in December. "It's not like -- you know, you're not buying a car or a boat."
PHOTO: Courtesy of University of California, Riverside