Fourteen Years in a Row, Kiplinger's Best Value

The University once again — and for the 14th time in a row — is the best value in American public higher education, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine

Carolina has topped the list based on academic quality and affordability every single time since Kiplinger’s began issuing the rankings in 1998.

“I am proud that we have never wavered from our promise of accessibility, remaining one of the few public universities that is both need-blind and covers full financial need,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “But our promise to our students and our state is not only about keeping tuition low and meeting financial need — it’s also about making sure that each and every student, no matter who they are or where they come from, can pursue their dreams to the fullest at Carolina.”

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 nonresident students and average costs after financial aid.

The universities of Virginia and Florida rank second and third, respectively, on the Kiplinger’s list of publics. The remaining top 10 public universities are, in order, the universities of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles, Michigan, the College of William and Mary, the universities of Wisconsin at Madison, Maryland at College Park and Georgia.

The magazine combined public schools, private universities and private liberal arts colleges into a single rankings issue for the first time. Princeton University was the top private university and Swarthmore College was the top-ranked liberal arts college.

Carolina’s average debt at graduation has remained largely flat for more than a decade, and the percentage of graduates who borrow money is far below the national average. According to the Project on Student Debt, 70 percent of students nationwide borrow money to pay for college, while fewer than 40 percent borrow money to attend UNC.

The average student debt loan at Carolina is currently $16,150 with 43 percent of students receiving need-based aid. Carolina’s most recent four-year graduation rate is 84 percent, well above the average for a public university, and earlier this year Folt announced the launch of a campuswide initiative that will focus on advising and other improved methods of support to help all students succeed at even higher rates.

This year Carolina celebrated an accessibility milestone when the Carolina Covenant Scholars Program turned 10. Since 2004, Carolina has promised that low-income students would have the opportunity to graduate without borrowing. While universities have modeled programs after the Carolina Covenant, some have abandoned those programs, and Carolina’s promise to its own students still stands.

Before the Carolina Covenant, just 56.7 percent of students who would be eligible for the Covenant graduated within four years. As of last year, the four-year graduation rate of Covenant scholars was 76.6 percent. The graduation rate of black men in the program more than doubled.

Carolina has launched a number of programs designed to empower students from a variety of backgrounds, such as the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program, which supports underrepresented students who aspire to become scientists, and a physician assistant program designed for veterans who have served as medical sergeants.

The new ranking will appear in the February 2015 issue and is posted online as of Dec. 17.

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