Jan 12, 2010

Virginia’s Public Institutions Once Again Named ‘Best Value’

The Commonwealth is on a roll! Earlier this month, Virginia’s colleges and universities made an impressive showing on Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges for 2010, with 6 schools named among the top 100 in the nation. This morning, the TODAY Show and USA Today debuted the Princeton Review Best Value Colleges for 2010, and for the second year in a row, the University of Virginia topped the public college list followed by Virginia Tech, the College of William and Mary, James Madison University, and the University of Mary Washington.

Across the Potomac, the State of Maryland was also represented on the Princeton Review list. Salisbury University, St. Mary’s of Maryland, and the Naval Academy earned places among the top 50 in the nation.

Area private colleges did less well in the ranking. The only local schools appearing among the 50 Best Value Private Colleges were Sweet Briar College and the University of Richmond. Once again, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania topped the 10 Best Value Private Colleges, with Harvard University and Weslyan College of Macon, Georgia, coming in at two and three respectively.

The Princeton Review selected its 100 “best value” institutions—50 public universities and 50 private colleges—based on surveys of administrators and students at more than 650 institutions. Selection criteria covered academics, costs, and financial aid. “[T]he economic crisis and financial downturn have presented sobering challenges both to families struggling to afford college and to higher education institutions struggling to maintain their programs in the face of budget and funding shortfalls” said Robert Franek publisher of the Princeton Review. “We are pleased to partner with USA Today to present these schools for all they are doing to provide outstanding academics at a relatively low cost of attendance and/or generous financial aid.”

Tuition, fees, and room and board at four-year public institutions jumped 46 percent, from an average of $10,440 in 2000 to $15,210 last year, according to the College Board, which tracks costs. For private four-year institutions, costs rose by 28 percent during the same period. But to counter these increases, “Best Value” colleges provided on average $875 more in grant money per student this year over last. Nine schools on the list don’t even charge tuition, including the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

For UVA, the total cost of attendance for in-state students is approximately $19,112 and $41,112 for nonresidents. Need-based aid distributed to undergrads rose from $37 million in 2003-04 to $59.1 million last year, and 1250 entering students received these funds, according to USA Today. The average student got $9673 in need-based grants and graduated about $19,016 in debt.

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