Once again, 12 of the 100 public colleges listed as “Best Values, 2013,” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine may be found in either Maryland or Virginia. Outside of California and New York, no other region of the country can boast such a high concentration of "best value" public institutions.
And this year, the University of Virginia moved up a notch to number two—just behind the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill—as a best value among public institutions. The College of William & Mary held on to number four, with the University of Maryland following at number five.
“Affordability and quality are in the higher education spotlight for good reason,” said UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan. “We’re proud of our position in Kiplinger’s list of best values. It reaffirms that we’re on the right track, and more importantly, gives our students and prospective students reason to be confident that this is a great place to get a world-class education at a reasonable price.”
To maintain their positions on the list, top public colleges and universities had to deal with the effects of continuing reductions in state appropriations for higher education. Commenting on the “state of state schools,” Kiplinger’s acknowledges that the landscape for public colleges looks “bleak” as administrators have been forced to increase class sizes and trim staff.
And yet despite significant belt-tightening, public college costs continue to climb. Outpacing both inflation and family income, the average sticker price for public institutions rose 4.2% to $17,860 for in-state students and 4.1% to $30,911 for out-of-staters, according to the College Board.
Kiplinger’s bases its rankings on a combination of academics and affordability, with “academic quality,” carrying more weight than cost. Total expenses for in-state students (tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, and books), as well as the availability of financial aid (not loans) and the average debt per student at graduation are factors in computing overall cost. Extra bonus points are awarded to colleges managing to keep borrowing low.
In this year’s ranking, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came in number one for the 12th consecutive year, and the University of Florida came in just behind UVa at number 3. Other top ten schools include UCLA, the New College of Florida, UC Berkeley, SUNY Geneseo, and UC San Diego.
Kiplinger’s specifically applauded UVa for its 97% freshman retention rate, and its 87% four-year rate—the highest among the list of top performers. The University of Maryland at College Park jumped to number five, thanks to “an improved-four year graduation rate and a minimal increase in total cost over last year.”
Other Virginia universities ranked in the top 100 were James Madison (20), Virginia Tech (28), the University of Mary Washington (53), George Mason University (56), and Christopher Newport University (87). In Maryland, “Best Values” included St. Mary’s College of Maryland (41), Salisbury University (72), Towson University (84) and the University of Maryland Baltimore County (78).
For out-of-state students, SUNY Geneseo “edged out” UNC for the top ranking based primarily on total cost ($27,769 for nonresidents). While its academics didn’t top UNC’s, they were solid enough to move the small honors college to number one.
Local colleges also scored well among "best values" for nonresidents, with UVa moving up to number four, the College of William & Mary at number five, and the University of Maryland holding on to its number ten position.