1/11/2012 7:30 PM ET|
The best values in public colleges
Everybody's stretched these days, but some colleges and universities are doing better than others at wringing the most value from education dollars.
For public colleges and universities, the march out of the recession has become a long, slow slog. State appropriations for higher education have been gutted. The federal stimulus money that sustained colleges for several years is just about gone. Enrollment keeps climbing, the demand for financial aid remains high, and the average annual tuition increase is heading toward double digits.
Given these hard times in higher ed, the word value takes on special resonance. We've retooled our rankings to give more weight to criteria we consider crucial to academic value, including the percentage of students who return for sophomore year and the four-year graduation rate. Each category measures a college's ability to keep students engaged and on track for graduation. On the cost side, we continue to reward colleges with low sticker prices and abundant financial aid. But now, as student debt grows worrisome, we give bonus points to colleges that keep borrowing low.
Where does our new methodology take us? Back to where we started, with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This stellar school tops our ranking of the best values in public colleges and universities for the 11th consecutive time -- and this year it takes top honors for out-of-state value as well. From the fat years of the late 1990s through the post-2008 recession, UNC-Chapel Hill has been a leader for academic excellence, low cost and generous financial aid -- exactly the criteria by which we define value.
Other value leaders include the University of Florida (No. 2 on our list), the University of Virginia (No. 3) and the College of William & Mary (No. 4). The University of Florida and New College of Florida (No. 5) not only post prices that are less than half the average for private schools -- $38,589, according to the College Board -- but also beat the national average for public schools ($17,131), underlining the weight we give to affordability.
Cuts to higher-education funding
Carolina is no stranger to budget cuts: It has lost more than $231 million in state revenue since 2008. Several years ago, the university hired consultants Bain & Co. to help streamline operations. The resulting cuts, mostly to administrative functions, saved the university $50 million a year while keeping classroom operations intact. "I'm really proud of the work we've done to shelter undergraduate teaching," says Chancellor Holden Thorp. "We're running out of ways to do that." This year, the college increased class size, eliminated course sections and reduced faculty. In a meeting with the UNC board of governors, Tom Ross, the president of the UNC system, said, "The easy decisions are gone."
College administrators around the country are facing -- and making -- similarly tough calls, including eliminating or consolidating programs, increasing teaching loads, hiring more part-time faculty and increasing class sizes. State revenues have rebounded over the past year, says Daniel Hurley, of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. But, he says, public colleges can expect "a very long and slow climb back in terms of regaining state funding."
Truman State University, No. 23 on our list, is a liberal-arts college in Kirksville, Mo., and a fixture in our rankings for its across-the-board value. "We took a look at all our operations and asked ourselves, Does this help us accomplish our mission?" says President Troy Paino. "What didn't, we cut." The ax fell on a campus recycling center that served the whole community and a crime lab that was available to law-enforcement agencies but off-limits to students. "In a time of diminished resources, focus is critically important," says Paino. "Our focus is on students and learning."
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This list is crap and is slanted. Hmm……Frankly I do not see how the numbers add up?
UNC for example: average out of state cost after need based financial aid - $26K per year. yet they only owe 4K per year to get to 16K owed at graduation in this article??? so where is the mysterious 22K of aid per year coming from????? that's almost 100k of unexplained financial aid - or is that really debt to the student????
This article is either flawed, or not explaining itself well. In my opinion it has intentionally ignored colleges that are much better value but are not viewed as making the grade in this authors eyes. Fact is they are valuing the names and reputations of these colleges more than their actual "value" in getting a solid education cheaply. this article shouldn't be about pompous attitudes towards "elite" colleges and should be about true value.
I have seen many of these lists, and they are all the same, they don't truly live up to their own title.
BS! Look for yourself and avoid schools with schools that are well know for their sports teams (unless you are on a "jock" or want to major is basket weaving). Listed here are schools with very high cost. My old university (I will not mention which one, do your own homework) only charges $4,000/semester (full time, on campus, resident) and would give you just as good an education.
I am retired now and living very comfortably, so I do not mind if you want to over pay. However, I'm just trying to alert you to the fact that you do not need to hock the rest of your life with debt, just to get a good education. After a few years in the work place your place of education (school name) becomes unimportant. Employers want to see results from what you have learned. They do not want to pay you for having a fancy degree when you do not have the skills to back them up.
A community college, or even other public colleges in Washington state, or most likely any state for that matter, are BY FAR the better deal. While going to the University of Washington, I took some classes at a community college because I could actually get into them, and they were taught better!
Maybe the author of this article should have talked to some actual students!
Comparing these prices to others in the nation, these schools are a good deal. However, it still is costly. I went to a community college for a couple of years, building general ed courses and switching my major twice. Now attending a four-year in-state college with a major in something I am passionate about, I still worry about tutition costs. Although my college is the most affordable four-year in the state, the tutition is unfortunately rising due to inflation and the budget problems the school boards are facing. Luckily I can still get financial aid and compared to other colleges in my state, those are rising more and more percent wise. I also have no debt because I chose decent schools that were economically affordable. In addition, I had a part-time job, watched how I spent my savings, and rented/borrowed textbooks or got them online for cheap prices.
The best advice I can give is to attend community college first. According to what I have read, students will change their majors and careers several times by age twenty-five. Community college is financially better, offers degrees that give job training, and you could explore a possible major that will transfer you to a four-year college. In fact, several in-state colleges where I live have been taking more community college credits so future students can attend their schools. If not, try a trade school. You can learn skills and get training in professions where you can make a decent salary without big amounts of student debt or tutiton to pay.
There are lots of possiblities out there. Just look around and you will find them!
Best "Public" college for it's value? West Point or any of the other Service Academies. Totally free, world class education, and a guaranteed job upon graduation. They can't be beat!
Yeah, but do you have any CLUE how hard it is to get into one of the military academies? Not sure about West Point, but I know for a fact that both the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs and the Naval Academy in Annapolis require you to have a written recommendation letter from your elected Congress representative (House or Senate), and there are only so many spots available representing each region.
Top that off with you having to have top grades, proof of leadership all through your 18 years of life like grade school Boy Scouts through High School clubs, and of course the ubiquitous "military" mentality that they size up (and root out) during your admission interview. It is extremely difficult and competitive getting into. A neighborhood friend of mine got his scholarship and blew it because he preferred chicks and parties to the USAF way of life. You also have to not be an idiot.
And someone definitely did not do much research here. I went to my local Community College, got the two year AA, and then was automatically qualified to go to a state college of my choice for the BS, which I did (UF,. the #2 here). All for about 65% of the cost of those who even went to a state college for the full four years. So there are options within public colleges and universities too.
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