February 7, 2012 — The educational value that the University of Virginia offers its students ranks second among the nation's public institutions, according to the Princeton Review's "Best Value Colleges: 2012 Edition," released today. The announcement was made on NBC's "Today" show and in the pages of USA Today.
"Best Value Colleges" – which is accompanied by a website – profiles 150 colleges and universities, split equally between public and privates. Its editors made their selections based on surveys of administrators and students at 650 colleges and universities, taking into account 30 factors in three areas: academics, cost of attendance and financial aid, according to the Princeton Review's announcement.
In its profile of U.Va., the book highlights the University's financial aid program, AccessUVa, saying, "U.Va. has one of the largest per-capita endowments of any public school in the country and exerts a tremendous effort to ensure that its undergraduates have access to an affordable education regardless of economic circumstances."
U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said the ranking is a timely reminder for prospective students and their families.
"At a time when the national discourse is focused on the cost and value of a college education, we are pleased to be recognized as one of the top values among the nation's public universities," she said. "Students come to U.Va. because of the quality of our academic programs, but also because they can get a great education here without taking on extraordinary debt."
Under the AccessUVa financial aid plan, the University pledges to meet 100 percent of students' demonstrated need. The plan provides loan-free aid packages for low-income students and caps loans for all other aid recipients at one year's cost of in-state attendance.
Elsewhere in Virginia, the College of William & Mary also achieved a top-10 listing, coming in at No. 6 among public universities.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill took over the top spot from U.Va., which had held it for the past three years. The rest of the public top 10 included New College of Florida (No. 3), State University of New York at Binghamton (No. 4), University of Wisconsin (No. 5), University of Florida (No. 7), University of Georgia (No. 8), University of Washington (No. 9) and University of Texas at Austin (No. 10).
Williams College, Swarthmore College, Princeton University and Harvard University led the private-school rankings.
In making the announcement on "Today," Robert Franek, the Princeton Review's senior vice president and publisher, called U.Va. "a powerhouse school academically." He said the top schools on the list provide "a great academic value, but a great financial value as well."
Noting that a Princeton Review survey of parents and teens found that 86 percent said financial aid would be "very necessary" in order to attend college, Franek said, "We recommend these extraordinary colleges as our 'best buys' for 2012 and salute them for what they are doing to keep their costs down and/or offer generous aid to applicants with financial need."
The USA Today chart accompanying the announcement lists U.Va. as having a $21,836 cost of attendance for in-state students. It pegs the average amount of need-based grants at $16,781 per aid recipient and average need-based loans at $5,652, with 35 percent of students borrowing. Students' average debt at graduation is $19,384.
In January, U.Va. maintained its third-place ranking among public universities in the annual Kiplinger "best value" list.
— By Dan Heuchert