The 10 Best Public School Values

College tuition is pricey, so you want to make sure that you're getting your money's worth in education. The ten public universities outlined in this article are rated as the best deals in a learning-per-cost evaluation.

kiplinger best value colleges universities

More Bang For Your Buck

Personal financial publisher Kiplinger recently released a report that ranks public colleges and universities according to the fiscal value of the education they provide. The report examined 500 institutions using five criteria: cost and financial aid, student indebtedness, competitiveness, graduation rates and academic support. Kiplinger concluded that these ten public schools are the best for the money.

1. University of North Carolina (UNC)

Located on a naturally beautiful Chapel Hill campus, the University of North Carolina topped the 'Kiplinger' list for providing excellent, affordably priced education programs. Total per-year costs for in-state students are only $20,935, a bargain given UNC's reputation as a top-tier research university. Innovative science and technology programs have made the university the birthplace of many groundbreaking inventions. The arts also flourish here. North Carolina features three campus theaters and a creative writing program known for fostering the talent of American writer Thomas Wolfe. More than 600 student organizations help to make individuals of all interests feel welcome.

2. University of Florida (UF)

The University of Florida in Gainesville costs $17,331 per year for in-state students. This reasonable sticker price comes in spite of the fact that UF is a widely recognized research leader in higher ed. Exciting health advancements have been made at the school's cancer and genetics research center and biomedical sciences building. Scientific research, though, is not Florida's only forte. The school is home to 16 colleges that feature 100 undergraduate majors. Other highlights include an international education program, the cutting-edge Innovation Academy for non-traditional students and a stellar distance learning program.

3. University of Virginia (UVA)

Well known for its medical center and health sciences programs, the University of Virginia also offers quality academics in business, history, economics and psychology - among other disciplines. In-state students pay $26,348 per year to enjoy excellent education programs, award-winning athletics and a thriving Greek life - in which over 30% of UVA students participate. Founded by Thomas Jefferson, this Charlottesville school is also a repository for many cultural artifacts. An original copy of the Declaration of Independence is on display in one of Virginia's special collections libraries and its Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection is one of the largest Australian Aboriginal art collections in the world. Visitors can also take a look at the dorm room of Edgar Allen Poe - even though he did not graduate from the school.

4. University of California - Berkeley

Students from California pay $30,093 per year at UC Berkeley, which truly is a value given the university's national - and international - prominence. Often referred to as Cal, the school lays claim to one of the best public research libraries in North America. Popular degree programs among its students include offerings in computer science, political science, biology, environmental science, policy management and economics. Attending UC Berkeley allows for a lot of student extras, including access to several natural history museums on campus and discounted access to the Pacific Film Archive - which houses more than 10,000 films.

5. University of Michigan

In-state tuition at Michigan, as it is referred to, is $25,458. Michigan is known for its rigorous nursing program, including a thorough birthing simulation lab with rare but important complications built in. But if nursing isn't your game, you're in luck, because Michigan hosts 19 schools with about 260 different degree options. No wonder it is ranked among the top 25 universities in the world, and is considered to have the sixth smartest student body in the U.S. Plus, with over 1,400 student organizations and 12 dorm learning communities, it's easy to get involved with campus life and meet new friends with similar interests.

6. University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)

This acclaimed public research institution has almost 150 departments and programs, including fields in bioscience, nanoscience, international studies, the environment and the arts. Featuring a per-year cost of $29,266 for in-state students, UCLA has a campus that offers all the amenities of a small city. Access to six swimming pools, camping opportunities with the Outdoor Adventure program and admittance to a campus botanical garden are just a few of the recreational opportunities available to students. UCLA's location in the greater Los Angeles area regularly draws nationally recognized educators, performers and artists to campus.

7. University of Maryland (UMD)

The University of Maryland's location in College Park, near Washington, D.C., allows the school to maintain many fruitful scholastic partnerships with federal agencies located in the nation's capital. Among these are highly competitive research programs in national security, energy efficiency and NASA-funded space exploration. UMD's engineering and business schools are nationally renowned, and its unique living and learning programs place students with similar academic interests together in the same residence halls. In-state students get all of this at a reasonable cost of $22,098 per year.

8. University of Wisconsin (UW)

Located in Madison, this school has a reputation for research and offers 232 undergraduate majors and certificates. With unique opportunities such as the arts program First Wave, a major in hip-hop, spoken word and urban arts, UW is a great deal at $20,419 per year for Wisconsin residents. With plenty of volunteer opportunities and other campus options such as Greek houses, a Student Union, and a plethora of student organizations, there's never a dull moment at UW.

9. University of Washington

Also referred to as UW, this university costs $24,355 per year to students in the Apple state. That's a bargain, especially considering that the university is responsible for nearly 500 patents, about 87% of which had student contributors. With three campuses and 280 programs, undergrads can find a wide range of reputable degree options. And there's a host of ways to spend your free time, from jamming in a radio station studio, watching a Huskies basketball game, or just strolling a beautiful campus and viewing cherry blossoms in full bloom.

10. College of William and Mary

Located in Williamsburg, Virginia, the College of William and Mary is the second-oldest higher education institution in the United States. It is also home to the nation's first academic Greek society, Phi Beta Kappa, which was founded in 1776. William and Mary is an excellent option for students interested in studying the liberal arts, but more than 20 research centers also make it appealing to those in the social, natural and computational sciences. Given the school's excellent reputation, per-year in-state student costs of $31,650 seem a steal.

Need to save some cash? Get 40 money-saving suggestions from other college students.

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