Kiplinger's ranks UNC-Chapel Hill No. 1 value among public colleges, universities

mschultz@newsobserver.comJanuary 3, 2012 

UNC-Chapel Hill ranks as the No. 1 value in American public higher education, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine reported today.

For the 11th time in a row, UNC-CH ranked first on Kiplinger’s list of the 100 universities and colleges that provide the best value to in-state students. The magazine also listed Carolina No. 1 for the value offered to out-of-state students.

The new ranking appears in the February issue posted along with a related story this morning.

“Kiplinger’s takes a hard look at what we care most about at Carolina: providing a great education to a diverse student body at an affordable price,” Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement. “We established for the country the idea of higher education as a public good. So we are doubly proud to be recognized as one of America’s most accessible and high-quality public universities.”

The universities of Florida, Virginia and the College of William and Mary ranked second, third and fourth, followed by New College of Florida, and the universities of Georgia, California-Berkeley, Maryland at College Park, California at Los Angeles and California at San Diego. Other UNC system campuses on the list are UNC-Wilmington, 15th; NC State, 19th; Appalachian State, 33rd; UNC School of the Arts, 41st; and UNC-Asheville, 45th.

In a news release Kiplinger said it changed its methodology this year because of the economic challenges facing higher education. For academics, the formula considered the percentage of students returning as sophomores and the four-year graduation rate. The magazine favored campuses with low sticker prices and abundant financial aid, with bonus points for schools that keep student borrowing low. Kiplinger’s calculated value for cost and financial aid (low sticker prices, generous need-based aid and percentage of need met) and student indebtedness (low average debt at graduation and low percentage of students who borrow). Other categories were competitiveness (high test scores among freshmen, a low admission rate and a high yield as measures of selectivity and “intellectual synergy”); graduation rates (maximum points for the four-year rate; half that amount for a strong six-year rate); and academic support (number of students per faculty and freshman retention rate).

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