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William & Mary and UVa among top 10 ‘best value’ public colleges for 2014

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According to a ranking released yesterday by the Princeton Review in partnership with USA TODAY, the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary are among the top 10 ‘best value’ public colleges for 2014.

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The annual list recognizes America’s top undergraduate public and private universities offering outstanding academics, generous financial aid, and/or a relatively low cost of attendance.

Possibly reflecting recent changes in pricing and financial aid policies, this year saw a shuffle among the top colleges. UVa dropped from first to third place after the University of North Carolina and New College of Florida, and William and Mary went from 4th to 8th in the value ranking for public universities.

The Princeton Review selected its 150 best values—75 public and 75 private—based on data collected from 2,000 undergraduate institutions. Through institutional and student surveys, the project weighed more than 30 data points covering academics, costs, financial aid, percent of graduating seniors who borrowed from any loan program and the average debt those students had at graduation.

At about half (72) of the 150 colleges named best value, the average freshman grant for applicants who qualify for aid is $20,000 or more. And among the 75 public colleges, the average admission rate is better than 50 percent.

“Students who attend these schools don’t have to mortgage their futures to pay for their degrees,” according to the Princeton Review.

Locally, Christopher Newport, James Madison, Longwood, the Naval Academy, Radford University, Salisbury University, Virginia Tech, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, UMBC, and the University of Maryland-College Park were also named to the list.

Among the nation’s private colleges, the University of Richmond maintains its perfect record of being named a Princeton Review ‘best value’ for 11 straight years—each year since the project originated in 2004.

“We are pleased by this recognition of the university’s excellent academic programs,” said Richmond’s president, Edward L. Ayers. “Our commitment to financial aid ensures that Richmond’s exceptional experience remains accessible to qualified students regardless of their financial circumstances.”

Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins are the only other local private institutions to earn spots on the list.

The Princeton Review's "Best Value Colleges" list appears in two free online resources and a companion book. The list and school profiles may be found at http://www.princetonreview.com/best-value-colleges.aspx. USA TODAY posted an exclusive "Best Value Colleges" interactive database at a dedicated area on USATODAY.com: http://bestvaluecolleges.usatoday.com. There, users can access detailed information about each college and sort the list several ways including by state, tuition, enrollment, and average freshman grant.

The Princeton Review’s book, The Best Value Colleges, has detailed profiles of the colleges with advice for gaining admission and financial aid from the schools. The book also includes profiles of nine tuition-free colleges.

The Princeton Review's Top 10 Best Value Public Colleges for 2014 are:

1. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
2. New College of Florida (Sarasota)
3. University of Virginia (Charlottesville)
4. North Carolina State University (Raleigh)
5. University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
6. UCLA
7. University of Florida (Gainesville)
8. The College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA)
9. Truman State University (Kirksville, MO)
10. State University of New York at Binghamton

The Princeton Review's Top 10 Best Value Private Colleges for 2014 are:

1. Williams College (Williamstown, MA)
2. Harvard College (Cambridge, MA)
3. Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA)
4. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
5. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
6. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (New York, NY)
7. Vassar College (Poughkeepsie, NY)
8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
9. Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
10. Pomona College (Claremont, CA)

Disclosure: Nancy Griesemer is a member of the Princeton Review National College Counselor Advisory Board, 2013-2014.

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