Jan 4, 2010

Area Colleges and Universities Score Well in Kiplinger’s Best Values

Despite the effects of an anemic economic recovery, DC area colleges and universities are still providing excellent value for the tuition dollar. According to a recently-released report, 11 out of Kiplinger's "100 Best Values in Public Colleges for 2010" are located in either Maryland or Virginia.

In Virginia, UVA topped the in-state list at number 3 for the top 100 public colleges. William and Mary came in at number 4, followed by Virginia Tech (16), James Madison University (21), the University of Mary Washington (38), and George Mason University (64). For nonresident students the values were slightly lower with William and Mary (6) and UVA (13) trading places for the top values in Virginia.

The biggest Maryland in-state winner was the University of Maryland at College Park, which jumped from number 28 in February 2008 to number 8 in 2010. According to the Kiplinger Special Report, Maryland, "known for its engineering, journalism and computer-science programs (and of course, its terrapin mascot), has risen to the top by keeping in-state costs virtually unchanged while improving on quality, especially in its graduation rates." Other state schools appearing on the list include St. Mary's of Maryland (37), Salisbury University (59), University of Maryland Baltimore County (93), and Towson University (97). For out-of-state students, Maryland dropped to number 11, while St. Mary's (30), Salisbury (48), UMBC (62), and Towson (91) all climbed up the list.

The online report to be included in the February edition of Kiplinger's Magazine evaluated 500 public four-year institutions. The list narrowed to about 120 schools based on measures of academic quality including standardized test scores, admission/retention rates, student-faculty ratios, as well as four- and six-year graduation rates. Each school was then ranked based on cost and financial aid, with the scoring system giving more weight to academic quality than cost to generate a best value ranking.

In a second report, private colleges and universities were also ranked for value. Starting with 600 private institutions, Kiplinger's divided the top 50 universities and liberal arts colleges into separate tables. Again, academic quality accounted for two-thirds of the ranking system, with affordability contributing the other third.

Based on this system, Caltech came in number one for private universities, and Pomona topped the list for liberal arts colleges. According to the Kiplinger Report, students at private institutions "asked for financial aid in greater numbers and requested larger amounts." In response, private colleges and universities increased financial aid by 9 percent while keeping tuition increases to an average of 4.3 percent. As a result, families found that private colleges were "still affordable, and enrollments generally held steady."

Washington and Lee University was the only local liberal arts college to make it onto Kiplinger's best values list, coming in at number 7. The University of Richmond (14), Johns Hopkins University (20), and Georgetown University (26) were listed among the top values in private universities.

The complete report on "Best College Values" may be found on the Kiplinger's website. You can agree or disagree with the rankings by voting your number-one pick for best value in public colleges, private universities, and/or private liberal arts colleges by selecting from among the lists provided. It's already clear that readers have independent opinions on the subject of value!

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