University of Virginia Reaps High Praise in Kiplinger's 2009 'Best Value' Issue

October 31, 2008

October 31, 2008 — The University of Virginia receives star treatment in the December issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, which ranks U.Va. No. 3 in its "100 Best Values in Public Colleges."

The magazine — which hits newsstands Nov. 11 — lauds U.Va. for its academic quality, generous AccessUVA financial aid program and the large endowment and successful fundraising operation that allow it to ride out economic hard times.

"Students talented enough to be admitted to Mr. Jefferson's village ... are also smart enough to recognize the bargain they're getting," writes the author, Jane Bennett Clark.

The article, accompanied by a full-page photo of U.Va.'s historic Lawn, quotes students and top University officials. It also mentions U.Va.'s College Guide program, which sends recent graduates out to high schools with large low-income populations to help promising students apply to colleges.

In the article, University President John T. Casteen III describes how the financial aid climate differs from when he attended U.Va. as the son of a Norfolk shipyard worker, and recounts the origins of AccessUVA.

"Throughout the 1990s, we struggled with a financial aid budget that rarely got past 90 percent of what students needed," he told the magazine. "The effect was that our students, who had never used loans very much, began to build up debt."

AccessUVA pledges to meet 100 percent of student need and guarantees loan-free financial aid packages for students whose family income is up to twice the federal poverty level.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Leonard W. Sandridge discusses the increasing importance of the endowment, especially in a tough economy.

"Thirty years ago, the endowment was the icing on the cake," he said. "Today, it's very much the cake."

Kiplinger's lists U.Va.'s total in-state costs — including tuition, fees and room and board — as $18,460 per year for in-state students and $38,760 for out-of-state students. U.Va. graduates carry an average debt load of $16,847.

The article notes that, with need-based financial aid, the average cost of in-state attendance drops under $5,000 — "less than the average price of a year of preschool."

The rankings take into account admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios and four- and six-year graduation rates, as well as costs and financial aid, according to a Kiplinger's press release.

Kiplinger's has ranked U.Va. third for three of the past four years; this year, it trails only the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. Rounding out the top 10 are the University of Georgia, the College of William & Mary, the State University of New York-Geneseo, Binghamton University, New College of Florida, the University of Maryland-College Park and the University of California-San Diego.

Fourth-year student Kyle Mihalcoe of Sandston, Va., received a loan-free financial aid package through AccessUVA, and now spreads the word about the University's aid programs through the Hoos for Open Access student group.

"From the outside looking in, you might see U.Va. as standoffish, but once you're a student here, it's one of the most welcoming communities I've ever seen," Mihalcoe told Kiplinger's. "From the first day I stepped on the Grounds as a U.Va. student, I fell in love. It instantly clicked. I knew this was the right place for me."