The Princeton Review revamped its annual ranking of the best college values in America this year, but the results were familiar: the University of Virginia is listed as the nation’s top public school for affordability, academics and career prospects.
The national educational services company on Tuesday released its new book, “Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Best Value Colleges and What it Takes to Get In – 2015 Edition” (Penguin Random House / Princeton Review). The book rates U.Va. as the No. 1 public university – and No. 16 overall – among the “Top 50 Colleges That Pay You Back.”
Princeton Review has published a “best value” ranking since 2004. This year, the editors based its list on a new “return on education” formula that measured 40 weighted data points, which included everything from academics, cost, financial aid and student debt to statistics on graduation rates, alumni salaries and job satisfaction.
The editors culled data from surveys of administrators and students at 650 colleges and universities conducted in 2013-14, and surveys of alumni from those schools conducted by PayScale.com through April 2014.
Awarding U.Va. a return-on-education rating of 97, Princeton Review editors say the University “exerts a tremendous effort to ensure that its undergraduates have access to an affordable education regardless of economic circumstances. … By limiting debt – or eliminating it altogether, in the case of students with the most need – UVA ensures that you can afford to attend the university as long as you can get admitted and maintain decent grades.”
The editors cited PayScale.com data that shows U.Va. graduates have a median starting salary of $51,100 and a median mid-career salary of $95,700. Some 69 percent of alumni report “high job satisfaction” and 48 percent report “high job meaning.”
“This top ranking from Princeton Review stands as further confirmation that the University of Virginia offers one of the nation’s best values in higher education — an education that is both excellent and affordable," U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. "In addition, the 'return-on-education' data show that a UVa education is a great investment that continues to provide life-long benefits for our students.”
The book’s editors also list U.Va. on two other sub-lists. U.Va. was ranked as having the No. 8 alumni network in the nation, and ranked 11th on a list of “Colleges That Pay You Back (Even If You’re Not Eligible for Need-Based Financial Aid).”
“UVA seamlessly blends the academic advantages of the Ivy League with the social life and price tag of a large state school,” the editors write.
The top 15 schools in the overall ranking are private institutions, led by The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California; Stanford University; and Princeton University.
After U.Va., the next three top public schools on the list were the University of California, Berkeley (No. 17), Georgia Institute of Technology (No. 24) and the University of California, Los Angeles (No. 26). The only other Virginia school to make the top 50 was the College of William & Mary, coming in at No. 45.
U.Va. is a fixture in national rankings. U.S. News & World Report rates U.Va. as the No. 2 public university in the nation, tied with UCLA. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine has rated the University as the nation’s No. 2 best value among public universities for three straight years. And the Princeton Review’s previous iteration of “best value” rankings listed U.Va. as No. 3 among public universities in 2014.