Kiplinger's rates UNC-CH nation's best value for public colleges

From Staff ReportsDecember 28, 2012 


The Old Well, seen here in this 2005 file photo, is the iconic symbol of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For years, the Old Well served as the sole water supply for Old East and Old West dormitories. Its current design, added in 1897, was derived from the Temple of Love in the Garden of Versailles


  • How Others Fared Other UNC system campuses on the list are N.C. State, 21st; UNC School of the Arts, 31st; UNC Wilmington, 32nd; Appalachian State, 36th; and UNC Asheville, 52nd.

— UNC-Chapel Hill ranks as the No. 1 value in American public higher education because it offers students “stellar academics” at a bargain price, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

For the 12th time in a row, Carolina 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 the university second for the best value offered to out-of-state students.

The universities of Florida, Virginia and the College of William and Mary ranked second, third and fourth, followed by the Universities of Maryland at College Park (fifth), New College of Florida (seventh) and the universities of California at Los Angeles (sixth), Berkeley (eighth) and San Diego (10th). The State University of New York at Geneseo ranked ninth for in-state value and first for out-of-state value.

Kiplinger’s periodically has ranked the best public campus values since 1998; UNC-CH has been first every time.

“Access and affordability are what allow us to attract great students from a broad range of backgrounds with different interests and different career goals,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a news release. “I can’t think of an aspect of this University that is more crucial to who we are. It’s the marriage of that with the academic excellence that creates the environment and the unique nature of Carolina.”

Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to measurable standards such as admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and the four-year graduation rate.

Data considered for Kiplinger’s top 100 list included total cost for in-state students (tuition, fees, room and board, and book expenses); the average cost for a student with need after subtracting non need-based grants (not loans); the average percentage of need met by aid; and the average debt a student accumulates before graduation. For the out-of-state ranking, the magazine recalculated academic quality and expense numbers using total costs for non-resident students and average costs after financial aid.

In fall 2012, Carolina enrolled 3,928 first-year students from a record 29,507 applicants, according to the news release. Nearly 79 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class, and they scored an average total of 1938 on the SAT. Seventeen percent were first-generation college students; another 12 percent were eligible for the Carolina Covenant, which promises qualified low-income students the chance to graduate debt-free.

N.C. undergraduates pay $7,694 in tuition and fees, while out-of-state students pay $28,446.

“Carolina’s total annual cost runs less than $20,000 – a bargain compared with private schools, which run an average of $39,518 a year, according to the College Board,” the Kiplinger’s story said, noting that the total annual cost for in-state students after need-based aid awards was $6,035.

This September, the UNC Board of Governors adopted a new policy that allows each campus to set its own limits for the percent of tuition increases used for financial aid. In 2012-2013, 38 percent of new tuition revenue at UNC-Chapel Hill is being returned to students as need-based aid, the maximum percent allowed by the board.

About 37 percent of Carolina undergraduates borrow to pay for their education, with an average debt at graduation of $17,525, fourth lowest in the Kiplinger’s top 10 and well below the national average of $25,000.

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