The Best Values in Public College

Experts highlight the public colleges that offer the best value

With the cost of secondary education at an all-time high and students becoming increasingly aware of the hardships that come with amassing large debts, finding a great value in a college is more important than ever. The organizations that put together college rankings are aware of this fact and are providing important information that parents and students searching for the perfect school should carefully review. With these rankings, it is possible to match your interests and needs with a school that offers a great value.

Even though a degree comes with a hefty price tag, forgoing college altogether is actually not the best way to save in the long run. When potential earnings are considered, it is clear that getting a diploma is still a valuable pursuit.

“In 2010, the median of earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s degree was 114% higher than someone who ends his or her education after high school,” said William McGuinness, a writer for the Huffington Post, citing a study by the National Center for Education Statistics. “That doesn’t mean all colleges and degrees are created equal, though.”

Attending a public college is generally a less expensive option than attending a private institution. Even among public institutions, however, there are definite standouts. Finding the best values are easy, thanks to the Princeton Review’s yearly list of best college values. The 2014 winners for Best Value College can be found at the website

The Princeton Review uses more than 30 data points based on information collected over the previous two years when making its choices. Because value depends on both cost and worth, these data points include financial issues, such as attendance costs and financial aid, as well as the merit of each school’s academics.

The top 10 winners for 2013 (in-state schools) are:

1) University of Virginia
2) University of North Carolina (UNC)–Chapel Hill
3) New College of Florida
4) College of William and Mary
5) University of California, Los Angeles
6) North Carolina State University
7) University of Wisconsin–Madison
8) State University of New York at Binghamton
9) University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
10) University of Georgia

Kiplinger’s also searches the country to find the best values in public education. There are several differences on Kiplinger’s list, which highlights the importance of using multiple resources to gain the clearest picture. Kiplinger’s Susannah Snider said that it decides which schools are the best values by looking at both affordability and academic quality, which it assesses by examining factors such as four-year graduation rates and test scores.

Kiplinger’s top 10 for 2013 are:

1) UNC–Chapel Hill
2) University of Virginia
3) University of Florida
4) College of William and Mary
5) University of Maryland, College Park
6) University of California, Los Angeles
7) New College of Florida
8) University of California–Berkeley
9) SUNY Geneseo
10) University of California, San Diego

Snider highlighted the merit of the number one choice, UNC at Chapel Hill, which always makes the list. According to Snider, it is clear why the university scores so high.

“Credit its stellar academics, reasonable sticker price and generous financial aid,” said Snider. “At 77%, Carolina’s four-year graduation rate is about 45 percentage points higher than the average rate for four-year public schools.”

This amazing value is no secret. The school receives many applicants and can afford to be very selective.

“Its 31% admission rate (the percentage of applicants who are accepted out of those who apply) makes it among the most competitive schools on our list,” Snider said.

Putting in the effort to submit a strong application isn’t just important for those wishing to take advantage of the great deal offered by UNC Chapel Hill; it is necessary for scoring a good merit scholarship or financial aid from any school.

“What most people don’t realize is most students aren’t paying the full sticker price. Two-thirds of students are getting financial aid. At nearly 100 of the 150 ‘Best Value Colleges’ we’ve identified, the average freshman grant this year was $10,000 or more,” said Rob Franek, author of The Best Value Colleges and Princeton Review’s vice president of publishing, in an email to the Huffington Post. “When it comes to picking a college, people need to be savvy shoppers and savvy applicants.”

If you use these lists as a jumping-off point to complete research tailored to your own needs for your education, you will be able to find the best college for you at the best price.

If you have any questions about funding your college education, ways to save money or any other financial issues, please give us a call.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
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