UF retains third-best ranking in Kiplinger's Best Values report
Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 12:00 p.m.
An undergraduate degree from the University of Florida is a great value for the money, according to Kiplinger's Best Values in Public Colleges 2014 report.
And that is good news for students and the state, UF administrators say.
For the second year running, UF ranked third-best in value for in-state costs on Kiplinger's list of 100 public colleges and universities, which evaluates the cost and quality of education among the top public schools in the country. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was ranked first for the 13th consecutive year that Kiplinger's has published its report, and the University of Virginia was ranked second.
UF President Bernie Machen said in a news release that the recent ranking "recognizes how important it is to offer good value." Not only that, he said, it shows that UF is providing a quality education that meets the needs of the state's economy. And as UF focuses on improving its status among its peers through its pre-eminence program, it will focus on improving in the comparative categories used in most rankings.
The rankings weigh the quality of education against the costs, said Marc Wojno, an associate senior editor at Kiplinger.
"UF is very competitive," he said. "A lot of students like to come to Florida because of the quality of its academics, and it's a great sports school."
Educational criteria account for 55 percent of the ranking, and UF scores well in most categories, he said.
It's the largest school in the top 10, with nearly 33,000 undergrads, and is very competitive by several educational categories — a 44 percent admission rate, a 96 percent freshman retention rate, 64 percent four-year graduation rate and an 85 percent six-year graduation rate.
Its main drawback, a 21-to-1 student-teacher ratio that is well above the national average of 17 to 1, is offset by how well students perform in those other categories, Wojno said. "It's got a solid student body."
By comparison, UNC Chapel Hill's admission rate was 28 percent; its freshman retention rate was 97 percent; its four-year graduation rate was 77 percent; and its six-year rate was 90 percent. The student-faculty ratio is 14:1 with an undergraduate student body of 18,503.
UVA had a 30 percent admission rate, a freshman retention rate of 97 percent, a four-year graduation rate of 87 percent and a six-year rate of 93 percent. Its student-faculty ratio is 16:1 with an undergraduate student body of 15,822.
The other 45 percent of the ranking is based on cost metrics, Wojno said.
UNC had an annual cost of $19,676 and was the only school to offer 100 percent financial need aid, reducing the annual cost to $6,454. Its average debt at graduation was $16,983.
UVA's annual cost of $23,415 was cut to $5,070 after need-based aid. UVA offered up to 98 percent of need. Average debt at graduation was $21,591.
UF's annual cost of $16,863 (including books, fees and living expenses) gives it the lowest cost for in-state students among the top 10 in Kiplinger's ranking. That amount falls to $10,679 a year with student aid. UF offers up to 78 percent of need in aid.
Also, UF students graduate with an average debt load of less than $20,000 — well below the national average of $29,400 in debt.
"That's very advantageous," Wojno said. "UF students graduate with less debt than the national average and (are) getting a quality value."