The University of Virginia offers one of America’s top economic values in higher education, according to a new Kiplinger’s Personal Finance list of the 100 best values in public colleges.
U.Va. has earned the distinction every year since the magazine began its rankings in 2008.
The 2014 list ranks the University No. 2 nationally, the same as the previous year. Kiplinger’s bases its assessment on standards including admission rate, graduation rates, sticker prices, financial aid and student debt levels.
“Value has become an increasingly important metric,” U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “Students and their families want to make smart investments in higher education with returns that include a quality education at a reasonable price, and dependable prospects for success after earning a degree.”
The rankings will appear in Kiplinger’s February issue, which will be on newsstands Dec. 31, and are available now online.
“The college landscape today is very different – tuition increases and student debt dominate the national conversation surrounding higher education,” said Janet Bodnar, editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. “This year’s top 100 schools have made admirable strides to maintain academic integrity and standards while meeting the financial needs of their students.”
U.Va.’s stellar 97 percent freshman retention rate and its 87 percent four-year graduation rate help propel the University to the upper echelon of the rankings. A student-faculty ratio of 16-to-1 boosted the result, and Kiplinger’s also highlighted U.Va.’s average student debt at graduation, which at $21,591 was nearly $8,000 below the national average of $29,400.
U.Va. is also recognized as having one of the nation’s most generous financial aid programs. The AccessUVa program covers 100 percent of demonstrated student need through a combination of grants, work study and capped loans. Since AccessUVa’s inception in 2004, U.Va.’s contribution to student financial aid has increased from $11 million, benefitting 3,293 students, to $40 million benefitting 5,080 students.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill occupies the top spot on the Kiplinger list. After U.Va., the top 10 includes the University of Florida; the College of William & Mary; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Michigan; the University of Maryland; the University of Wisconsin; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of Georgia.
Kiplinger’s editors begin with data from nearly 600 public four-year schools, then narrow to the top schools based on measures of academic quality – including SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios and four- and six-year graduation rates. The editors then rank each school based on cost and financial aid, with academic quality carrying more weight than costs.
Other Virginia public universities in the top 100 are James Madison University, No. 22; Virginia Tech, No. 27; University of Mary Washington, No. 61; George Mason University, No. 72; and Christopher Newport University, No. 84.
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance is not the only organization highlighting U.Va. for its value, efficient operations and academic quality.
U.S. News & World Report ranks the University as the No. 2 public university and No. 23 national university. Princeton Review ranks U.Va. as its No. 1 Best Value Public College. And Forbes named U.Va. the nation’s fourth-best public college for 2013, and the 28th-best university overall.