Since 1998, Carolina has never relinquished the top spot in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance’s now-annual list as providing the best value in American public higher education. And the University has just been judged to be No. 1 for the 17th year in a row.
The cost of higher education has become an increasing cause of concern across the U.S., making judgments such as Kiplinger’s assessment all the more significant.
“We have fantastic students and a faculty dedicated to providing each one with the opportunity to achieve their dreams in all areas of human endeavor,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “An excellent and affordable education, without fear of overwhelming debt, is one of the many ways we support our students. Being recognized for the 17th time as the best value in American public higher education demonstrates our long-standing commitment.”
The top ranking reflects the University’s commitment to opening access to a high-quality, affordable education to talented students from all backgrounds. Carolina is one of a few public institutions that practice need-blind admissions and provide low-debt, full-need student aid.
Carolina is regarded as a leader in creating programs that safeguard college affordability. In 2017, it committed $83 million in institutional funds to need-based financial aid, and last June, it was recognized with the prestigious Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence for its efforts to ensure all students had the opportunity to succeed.
Among the ways that Carolina has expanded college affordability:
• The Carolina Covenant: Eligible students whose household income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level have the opportunity to graduate from Carolina debt-free. Currently, 13 percent of undergraduates are Covenant Scholars.
• The Carolina Edge: As part of the Campaign for Carolina, the University’s $4.25 billion fundraising campaign, the Carolina Edge seeks to raise $1 billion for undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships in areas such as the Carolina Covenant, middle-income scholarships, merit scholars, summer internship grants, athletics, and graduate and professional school financial aid.
• Generous need-based financial aid packages: Ninety-three percent of institutional financial aid and scholarship resources are devoted to meeting financial need, with only 7 percent directed to merit-based scholarships.
Carolina points to these initiatives and programs when citing these results:
• Only 40 percent of seniors who graduated from Carolina in 2015 accumulated any debt, compared with nearly 70 percent nationally;
• The average debt among those who borrowed was $20,127, nearly $10,000 below the national average; and
• Over the past decade, cumulative debt at graduation among borrowers grew by about $3,000 at UNC, compared to $10,000 nationwide.
Carolina also is committed to supporting students throughout their college careers and on to graduation. Officials say that through various retention efforts, the gaps in retention and graduation rates between low-income and other students has narrowed over the past decade and are now almost completely closed.
The Kiplinger’s rankings are developed based on measures of academic quality, including SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios and four-year graduation rates. The editors then rank the schools using cost and financial aid measures. Academic quality carries more weight than costs.
The full rankings are available at kiplinger.com/links/colleges and will appear in the February 2018 print issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, on newsstands Jan. 9.