UNC is Kiplinger's Best Value

Carolina is taking the lead for the sixth straight year as the nation’s “best value” on a list of 100 four-year public colleges and universities.

The University was ranked number one on the list – a periodic analysis by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine – based on factors of academic quality and cost.

“Tar Heel students pay $13,584 or less and get small classes, a top-notch faculty and a supportive environment that enables 84 percent of students to earn a degree within six years,” Kiplinger’s reported. “That winning formula attracts top students from both in and out of state.”

Runners-up in the race for value included the University of Florida, ranked second, the College of William and Mary third, the University of Virginia fourth and Binghamton University fifth.

Of Carolina’s in-state neighbors, N.C. State ranked 12th, Appalachian State 31st, UNC-Wilmington 35th, UNC-Asheville 36th and UNC-Greensboro 53rd.

Kiplinger’s, a magazine with a circulation of about 1 million, has been publishing the rankings since 1998. Their reports drew from data from more than 500 public colleges and universities.

Academics were emphasized in the comparison, which looked at educational performance as well as cost and depth of financial aid.

The percentage of the 2005-2006 freshman class scoring 600 or higher on the verbal and math components of the SAT, admission rates, freshman retention rates, student-to-faculty ratios and four-and six-year graduation rates were all factors considered in the academic component of the formula.

The University has a 14-to-1 student-faculty ratio. The school met one of its own indicators of educational success – class size – with 50 percent of its students in classes of fewer than 20 students in 2005.

The financial component of the Kiplinger’s analysis also accounted for factors of total cost for in-state students, average cost for a student with need after subtracting grants (but not loans), average cost for a student without need after eliminating non-need-based grants, average percentage of need met by need-based financial aid, and the average debt of a student before graduation.

For out-of-state students, total and average costs were considered after accounting for aid.

The article noted Carolina’s dedication to need-based financial aid, which determines aid eligibility based on need rather than merit. The story mentions that Carolina provided aid for 100 percent of the families who qualified.

The University’s Carolina Covenant, a financial aid program that promises a debt-free education to low-income families, was a first for public universities in 2003. To qualify, a family’s income must not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $37,700 for a family of four.

More than 950 students have been enrolled in the program, which requires 10 to 12 hours of work in a work-study job and in exchange for volunteer faculty mentoring and the funds, which are provided through federal, state, University and other privately funded grants and scholarships.

The Kiplinger’s article is available online.