Which NC universities offer the best value? The new Kiplinger’s list is out.

Students mingle on the quad in front of the Wilson Library on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill in August.
Students mingle on the quad in front of the Wilson Library on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill in August.

UNC-Chapel Hill is again at the top of the list when it comes to the best bang for your buck in public education.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranked UNC as the top university in the nation when it comes to affordable public schools.

N.C. State University is also high on the rankings of affordable public schools at no. 9.

Among private schools, Kiplinger’s says Duke University is the third-best value, and Davidson College came in at no. 1 on the list of affordable liberal arts colleges.

To determine its rankings, Kiplinger’s looks at academic quality and financial aid information for more than 1,000 schools. The rankings take into account things such as admission rates, graduation rates, lowest total cost and need-based financial aid.

In-state total costs at UNC runs about $22,000 a year, according to Kiplinger’s. That cost drops to just under $5,000 annually after factoring in financial aid. By comparison, N.C. State costs about $21,000 a year for in-state total costs, dropping to about $11,000 after financial aid. A Duke education will run you almost $70,000 a year, but students receive an average of about $47,000 a year in need-based financial aid.

Kiplinger’s also includes median salaries for young alumni who got financial aid. UNC grads make about $54,000, N.C. State grads earn around $49,000 and Duke grads get roughly $78,000.

It’s the 17th time Kiplinger’s has named UNC the best value in public education. In a news release about the ranking, the university pointed to scholarship programs such as the Carolina Covenant, which gives low-income students a full ride to UNC, as part of its affordability. The university also said 40 percent of its graduating seniors in 2015 had student loan debt – compared to 70 percent of seniors nationwide the same year. (The average cost of a UNC student’s debt is about $21,000, according to Kiplinger’s rankings.)

“An excellent and affordable education, without fear of overwhelming debt, is one of the many ways we support our students,” said UNC Chancellor Carol Folt in the release. “Being recognized for the 17th time as the best value in American public higher education demonstrates our long-standing commitment.”

Several other North Carolina schools made the rankings. On the public schools list, Appalachian State came in at No. 29, Western Carolina at No. 58, UNC-Asheville at No. 61 and UNC-Wilmington at No. 62. On the private schools list, Wake Forest is No. 29 and Elon University is No. 40.

See a full list of the rankings here.

Pressley Baird: 919-829-8935; Twitter: @pressleybaird