Jan 4, 2012

Local Colleges Finish High on Kiplinger’s List of ‘Best Values, 2012’

Twelve of the 100 public colleges listed as “Best Values, 2012,” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine may be found in either Maryland or Virginia. According to Kiplinger’s, no other region of the country can boast of such a high concentration of "best value" colleges and universities.

While the University of Virginia retained its number 3 ranking for the sixth time in seven years, the College of William & Mary held on to the 4th position and the University of Maryland dropped to number 8 from number 5 last year.

Acknowledging “hard times” in higher ed, Kiplinger’s slightly retooled their methodology this year to give more weight to criteria considered “crucial to academic value,” including freshman retention and four-year graduation rates.

"As states cut funding for higher education and tuition continues to climb, the word 'value' becomes more significant than ever," said Jane Bennett Clark, senior editor at Kiplinger's Personal Finance. "This year’s top 100 public schools deliver strong academics at reasonable prices."

On the cost side, Kiplinger’s continued to reward colleges with low sticker prices and generous financial aid. And out of a concern for increasing levels of student debt, Kiplinger’s awarded bonus points to colleges keeping borrowing low.

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.

In this year’s ranking, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came in number one for the 11th straight year, and the University of Florida continued to hold down the number two spot. Other top 10 schools include New College of Florida, University of Georgia, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego.

Good deals may be found at North George College and State University, which runs less than $14,000 per year for instate students and keeps average debt at graduation to $10,021. The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma charges $11,230 to in-state students and $18,190 to nonresidents, making it the lowest-cost institution on the list.

Kiplinger’s applauded UVa for keeping average costs for families who qualify for need-base aid to only $5,138. And because UVa graduates 85% of its students within four years, families don’t have to worry as much about covering an extra year.

Other Virginia universities ranked in the top 100 were James Madison (28), Virginia Tech (32), the University of Mary Washington (44), George Mason University (50), and Christopher Newport University (94). In Maryland, “Best Values” included St. Mary’s College of Maryland (42), Salisbury University (71), Towson University (76) and the University of Maryland Baltimore County (84).

Local colleges also scored well among "best values" for out-of-state students, with the College of William & Mary moving up to number 4, UVa at number 5, and the University of Maryland at number 10.

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