University of Virginia Tops National 'Best Value' Ranking of Public Universities

January 08, 2009

January 8, 2009 — The University of Virginia offers students the best education for their money of all the nation's public universities, according to "Best Value Colleges for 2009," a ranking released today by The Princeton Review and USA TODAY.

Based on surveys of administrators and students at more than 650 public and private colleges and universities, The Princeton Review measured more than 30 factors in three general areas: academics, cost of attendance and financial aid. It announced its rankings of the top 50 public and private universities in today's edition of USA TODAY, and during a morning appearance on NBC's "Today" show.

According to the rankings Web site ( or,

“Few schools can match University of Virginia’s potent combination of phenomenal faculty, intelligent students, remarkable intercollegiate sports, and extraordinary academics. Indeed, students are continually impressed by the high caliber of opportunities available to them, both within the classroom and outside it. Notably, unlike other public institutions, there doesn’t seem to be a tendency for UVA students to be lost amid the paperwork and bureaucracy. Professors are accessible and devoted; many go out of their way to ensure that students are comfortable with the material.”

It continued. “UVA exerts a tremendous effort to ensure its undergraduates have access to an affordable education. Between grants, loans, work-study, and numerous scholarships, students are able to find a means of financial support.”

Announcing the rankings this morning on NBC’s “Today” show, Princeton Review vice president and publisher Robert Franek called U.Va. “an amazing school” with “engaging faculty members, exceptional students and a great value.”

“They’re able to do the near impossible, which is to meet 100 percent of a student’s need,” he said. “Schools can do the impossible. Some don’t charge tuition at all, and some say ‘We’re going to take financial aid away from being a stressor for the family.’ And U.Va. is one of those.”

U.Va. President John T. Casteen III lauded the support of alumni, parents and friends and the work of faculty and staff in maintaining the University's quality — especially in tough economic times.

He stressed the continuing — and growing — importance of the University's AccessUVa financial aid program in keeping U.Va. affordable for all qualified students, regardless of their income.

"By providing a superior education at a good price and with appropriate sources of financial aid for students from various economic circumstances, we aim to level the playing field for our nation's young people," Casteen said. "The current economic crisis has brought special challenges to families who are increasingly hard-pressed to pay education costs. Even as our nation's colleges and universities face new budget shortfalls and funding reductions, it is more important than ever that we keep education affordable."

Under the AccessUVa plan, U.Va. meets 100 percent of students' demonstrated financial need. Students whose family incomes are 200 percent of the federal poverty line or below receive loan-free, all-grant aid packages; all other students, regardless of their state residency, have the maximum amount of their need-based loans capped at approximately 25 percent of U.Va.'s in-state cost of attendance over four years, meeting all need above that amount with grants.

The "Best Value" rankings used data from the 2007-08 academic year, when the estimated total cost of attendance — including tuition, fees and other expenses (including room, board, laundry/cleaning, books/supplies and other personal expenses) — was $18,993 for in-state students and $38,243 for out-of-state students. Of that, tuition accounted for just $6,628 for in-state students and $25,643 for out-of-staters.

In the current year, the estimated total cost of attendance is slightly higher: $20,292 for Virginians (including $7,121 in tuition) and $40,592 for non-Virginians ($27,203 tuition). Tuition, fees, housing and meal plan costs for the 2009-10 academic year have not yet been set.

Academically, U.Va. was rated as the nation's No. 2 public university and among the top 25 of all national universities in the most recent rankings by U.S. News & World Report, and has ranked either first or second for each of the 12 years that the magazine has listed public colleges separately. In May, Forbes magazine reported that the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity ranked U.Va. No. 1 among all national public universities, based on student-satisfaction surveys and achievements. Also, the 2007 edition of the Newsweek/Kaplan "How to Get Into College Guide" cited U.Va. as one of 25 "New Ivies" — one of only four public universities so mentioned.

Given its affordability and high academic rankings, U.Va. unsurprisingly has a history of being recognized for its value. Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine featured U.Va. and ranked it third nationally in "100 Best Values in Public Colleges," published in its December issue. The most recent U.S. News rankings listed U.Va. 16th in its "Great Schools, Great Prices" category.

"We have earned this reputation for affordable excellence because we have expert fiscal managers who handle our resources wisely, because of our top-notch faculty and students, and because of our shared commitment to access and affordability," Casteen said.

Virginia ranked No. 4 in The Princeton Review's previous "Best Value" rankings, announced in April 2007, and No. 7 in its March 2006 rankings.

The College of William & Mary took third in the 2009 "Best Value" rankings of public institutions, giving Virginia universities two of the top three spots.

Swarthmore College topped the private school rankings.