Carolina is Kiplinger's Best Value for 13th Year

Carolina ranks as the No. 1 value in American public higher education for the 13th consecutive time, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

Since 1998, Kiplinger’s has periodically ranked public universities based on how they combine excellence and affordability; Carolina has been first every time. The new ranking appears in the February issue, at

“With today’s sky-high sticker prices and worrisome student debt, the college landscape looks very different,” Kiplinger’s reported. “But one element has remained consistent: The University of North Carolina is still on top.”

Kiplinger’s also singled out UNC as the only school on its list to meet 100 percent of financial need. The University combines grants and loans to guarantee that admitted students will have the opportunity to study at UNC regardless their financial situations.

The magazine also designated Carolina “best in class” for lowest percentage of students who borrowed and for out-of-state value.

The universities of Virginia and Florida and the College of William and Mary ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, on the Kiplinger’s list. The remaining top 10 schools are, in order, UCLA and the universities of Michigan, Maryland-College Park, Wisconsin-Madison, California-Berkeley and Georgia. Other UNC System universities on the list are N.C. State, 16th; School of the Arts, 24th; UNC-Wilmington, 28th; Appalachian State, 30th; and UNC-Asheville, 58th.

Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to a number of measurable standards, including the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and the four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include low sticker prices, abundant financial aid and low average debt at graduation.

“UNC’s combination of stellar academics, low cost and rich financial aid has once again bested its peers,” wrote Kiplinger’s staff writer Susannah Snider in her story, “The College Rankings that Really Matter.”

With its strong admissions process and the high quality of its entering first-year class, UNC “competes with elite private schools” in academic quality, Kiplinger’s reported. In fall 2013, Carolina had a record 30,836 applicants and enrolled 3,960 first-year students as part of a need-blind admissions process. More than 78 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class, and they scored an average total of 1948 on the SAT. Eighteen percent were first-generation college students; another 13.5 percent were eligible for the Carolina Covenant, which promises qualified low-income students the opportunity to graduate debt-free.

About 35 percent of Carolina undergraduates borrow to pay for their education, with an average debt at graduation of less than $16,983. That’s the fourth least debt in the Kiplinger’s ranking and well below the national average of $29,400.

Need-based aid at UNC cuts the average cost for in-state students to $6,454 (third lowest in the magazine’s list) and to $28,236 for out-of-state students. A significant portion of any campus-initiated tuition increase is returned to students as need-based aid.

Data considered for the 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.

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