Carolina No. 1 Best Value for 10th Straight Year

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine ranks Carolina as the best value in American public higher education for a “remarkable” 10th time in a row.

Kiplinger’s started ranking the best values in public universities in 1998; Carolina has been No. 1 every time. The ranking appears in magazine’s February issue, which is available on newsstands beginning today.

Kiplinger’s editors say their top 100 public campuses deliver “a stellar education at an affordable price.”

The universities of Florida, Virginia and the College of William and Mary ranked second, third and fourth, respectively, followed by the University of Maryland (College Park), Binghamton University, the State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo, and the universities of Georgia, Wisconsin (Madison) and Washington.

Other UNC System schools making the list were N.C. State, 15th; UNC-Wilmington, 27th; Appalachian State University, 35th; UNC School of the Arts, 48th; and UNC-Asheville, 58th.

“We’re so fortunate at Carolina because our students are terrific, and they come from almost every imaginable background,” said Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86. “The top Kiplinger’s ranking resonates for us because it recognizes our passion for providing the highest-quality education possible to these students at an affordable price.”

Kiplinger’s rankings story, “Best Values in Public Colleges,” focuses on how the global economic downturn has forced sweeping and likely permanent changes in U.S. public higher education because of state budget cuts and reduced federal funding.

“The takeaway for soon-to-be matriculating students: Look for schools that deliver an outstanding, affordable education in good times and bad,” Kiplinger’s story says. “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, ranked Kiplinger’s number-one best value for public colleges and universities for a remarkable 10 times running, is a prime example. Carolina’s admission rate remains among the lowest on our annual list; its students are among the most competitive; and its in-state cost, at $17,000, is not much higher than the average price ($16,140) for all public universities. For students who qualify for need-based aid, the total price for this top-tier university drops to an average of $7,020.”

In reporting context about Carolina’s current budget situation, the story mentions the favorable timing of the successful Carolina First Campaign, which raised $2.38 billion by the end of 2007; the necessity of recent tuition increases; and long-term efforts to streamline campus operations that have saved more than $30 million through an initiative called Carolina Counts. Those are among the factors that officials say have helped the University protect the classroom experiences of students. And, boosted by private support such as a $5 million gift from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, the University hired new junior faculty in 2010.

“Efficiency enhances our ability to meet our academic goals,” Thorp said in the story.

Kiplinger’s highlights undergraduate admissions office efforts, including offering top prospects assured admission as first-year students to bachelor degree programs in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The story also lauds the University’s commitment to providing need-based financial aid, even as the number of qualified students has risen sharply over the past two years.

In fall 2010, Carolina enrolled 3,960 first-year students drawn from a record 23,271 applications — a 24 percent increase over the past five years. More than 78 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. They posted an average 1304 on the SAT (critical reading and math combined). Eighteen percent were first-generation college students; more than 11 percent were eligible for the Carolina Covenant, which promises qualified low-income students the chance to graduate debt-free.

Carolina meets the full need of undergraduate students who apply on time and qualify for need-based aid, with financial aid packages made up of two-thirds grants and scholarships and one-third loans and work-study. Qualified low-income undergraduates who enter as Carolina Covenant Scholars can graduate debt-free through aid packages of grants and work study, but not loans.

About two-thirds of the Kiplinger’s ranking is based on measures of academic quality including SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and four- and six-year graduation rates. Then Kiplinger’s ranks each school based on cost and financial aid. Factors include total cost for in-state students (tuition, required fees, room and board, and estimated 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.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, which has a circulation of about 800,000, has been providing Americans with advice on managing their money and achieving financial security since 1947.


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