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Colby College, which shows up first in a “best values” list in the 2002 edition of the U.S. News & World Report guidebook, America’s Best Colleges, says it unintentionally supplied an inaccurate answer to U.S. News in response to a question about need-based financial aid. Therefore its number-one “best values” ranking is a mistake, College officials said Thursday.

“This was clearly our fault and we regret the error,” said Stephen Collins, Colby’s director of communications. “It was a mistake, albeit an honest and unintentional one.” Only the 2002 guidebook will carry the incorrect list; the correct data and ranking will be used in the September 17 weekly issue of U.S. News & World Report that contains the list and on the U.S. News Web site.

Colby officials noticed the error when they reviewed advance copies of the rankings supplied to colleges by U.S. News, and they immediately reported the mistake to U.S. News on Thursday. Collins said the average need-based gift award was reported to the magazine incorrectly last spring, skewing what U.S. News calls “the net cost of attendance” for students receiving financial aid.

The average need-based gift award—the amount granted to students who receive financial aid—should have been reported as $17,506. The college mistakenly supplied the “average financial aid package” amount, $22,590, which includes loans and earnings from campus jobs along with grants.

The erroneous data is not used in the magazine’s primary ranking of the “Best Liberal Arts Colleges,” U.S. News officials confirmed.