College isn't cheap. According to the College Board, a research organization that produces the SAT, the cost for just one year at a private university is now a whopping $40,917. About 70 percent of U.S. college students receive some form of grant aid to meet their expenses, and even more of them (or their parents) take out loans.

Is it worth it? Usually, yes. But a new book says parents should be careful, before they agree to foot the bill – some colleges are a better deal than others. The book America's Best Value Colleges (Princeton Review) highlights 150 colleges in 40 states, most public, some private, that offer the most bang for the buck.

The schools aren't necessarily the ones with the lowest price tags, but a combination of the best financial aid and the best education. Many you'd expect are here: the usual players from the University of California and New York's State University system. But some of the colleges, you may never have heard of. For example, Shorter College? Lake Forest? There are also a few real surprises, like Yale, that you wouldn't exactly expect to see on a cheapy list.

For those parents looking for a silver lining in a cloud of looming college costs, the book says, keep an open mind. Some you may know, others, not so much. Here are 20 to kick off your browsing:

Top 10 Best-Value Private Colleges:

  1. Williams College
  2. Harvard College
  3. Swarthmore College
  4. Yale University
  5. Princeton University
  6. The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art
  7. Vassar College
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  9. Amherst College
  10. Pomona College

Top 10 Best-Value Public Colleges:

  1. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  2. New College of Florida
  3. University of Virginia
  4. North Carolina State University
  5. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
  6. University of California—Los Angeles
  7. University of Florida
  8. College of William and Mary
  9. Truman State University
  10. State University of New York at Binghamton (Binghamton University)

You can see the entire list at the Princeton Review website:

Until then, keep on saving for those magical four years, wherever they may be. And keep the faith.