UNC Chapel Hill Is The Best Deal In Public Colleges

Kiplinger’s has released their rankings of the 100 best values for public colleges and universities — and the winner is… the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

It’s a selective school with competitive students, and yet the in-state cost only slightly above the average of all public universities at $17,000. If you’re eligible for need-based aid, “the total price for this top-tier university drops to an average of $7,020.” That’s less than the price of my used Jeep Wrangler, man.

Other colleges and universities that did well in the rankings include the University of Florida (number two) and the University of Virginia, which happens to be the institution that educated our own frugal Senior Editor, Chris Morran, (number three). “Wa-hoo-wa,” and all that.

Best Values in Public Colleges 2011 [Kiplinger’s]


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    The key is to decide which college you want to go to the most, then move to that state many years before reaching college-age so you can qualify for in-state tuition when you decide to apply, and hope that you get into that college. None of these three are particularly easy to get into, so work hard.

    • longdvsn says:

      Being in-state can help with admissions too.

      In NC (UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State, in particular), the admission rate is significantly higher for in-state candidates. Out-of-state candidates must have an exceptional application to gain admission, whereas in-state candidates just have to have a very good application.

      • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

        as long as you’re mentioning RDU universities, it is slightly easier to get into Duke if you are in-state. In-state applicants only need an exceptional application, while out-of-staters need an unbelievable application.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      or, if you are in that state, start early. my friend’s kid wants to go here and her high school has a magnet nursing program sponsored by UNC chapel hill that she’s trying to get into. it puts her on the radar of the school admissions

  2. nbs2 says:

    What’s the best value in private and overall? I’d be interested to see if any of the privates can compete with the publics – especially (according to Kiplinger’s) SUNY-Whatever-it-was.

    • selkie says:

      Don’t know about current studies, but Princeton has previously done quite well in terms of providing generous financial aid grants and its students graduate with less student loan debt than almost every first or second tier public university.

      Some of the Ivies and Ivy tier schools have the endowments to really give some good discounts off the sticker price of admission. A kid from a family making less than something like $50K a year that gets into Harvard has zero tuition costs.

      • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

        Yes, but then they have to suffer through a life of increased opportunity and constant envy. It’s really hard to live with that.

    • GrayMatter says:

      Actually college costs are more interesting than you might think. Very often the state schools charge a lower “list” price, but give very little in aid (think cash strapped states such as CA and IL).

      On the other hand, many private schools can afford to give significant amounts of aid, especially the big ones with large endowments. At the last “pay for your HS senior’s college” program, we saw specific examples where name-brand schools actually cost LESS than state, once the final amount was calculated.

    • pandroid says:

      SUNY “Whatever” was a great value for me, and I graduated in four years with a reasonable debt load (less than 20k). Of all the people I know who graduated with me, I’m the only without a job, and that’s of my own volition.

      • pandroid says:

        I should add that “best value” is a term that depends on what you’re going to school for and where you’d like to live later on in life. The best SUNY schools aren’t as well known outside the northeast*, but if you’re planning to be a high school teacher up there, it’s a great deal. However, if you’re planning to run an investment firm in London, then a pricier private university with a better known brand could be a wiser choice. There will never be one answer for the best college or university.

        (*That said, some of my classmates went on to get jobs internationally so possibly well known enough.)

      • BurtReynolds says:

        I too know of hardly anyone who has struggled after graduating from Binghamton.

        Despite the lack of name recognition outside of the tri-state area, my degree found me a job in the DC Metro area after graduation.

        Regarding the investment firm in London, I’d argue Binghamton is fine for that too. The School of Management is generally regarded as a fine place to do your undergrad and set yourself up for a spot in a top tier B-school. Not to mention there is a solid pipeline between SOM and employers in NYC. I had no interest in getting into that, but the people I know who did all had jobs before graduation.

    • unpolloloco says:

      None of these studies factor in financial aid. My private university cost less than the publics would have (and it’s better ranked!) and that’s with only merit-based aid.

  3. Marlin says:

    I went to UNC… W. Thats close enough right :)

  4. 108socks says:

    UVa is a fantastic education at a great price. Go Hoos!

  5. Consumeristing says:

    U…C….LLLLLLLL……A U! C! L! A! Fight fight fight!

    USC’s homepage today’s top stories is about women’s lacrosse and the Trojan band. UCLA’s homepage have bajillion stories on important smart stuff.

    • UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

      I hated the 8 clap before I got into UCLA. I hated it when I was there. I hate it now.

      But I still love the Bruins. Go figure.

  6. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    What a bizarre ranking.

    I think total indebtedness of graduates is more interesting, and by that metric, Cal State Long Beach is better than Berkeley.

    Screw it all. I say just go to the best school you can get into with the best affordability. For me, that was a UC. If you’re in NC, go to UNC if you want to, or wherever else you can afford.

  7. CPENinja says:

    As a NCSU graduate, I find this post offensive. According to a recent poll by NC State given to find ‘the worst school that happens to be nearby us,’ 95% of those responding reported UNC to be a terrible school that has an overly high percentage of baby-eating AND puppy-kicking. The other 5% reported Duke, which is an equally terrible school.

  8. alstein says:

    LOL, that might change with all the NCAA investigation going on there, and the reports of grade tampering.

  9. islandgirl says:

    Yay that’s where I go!!! :)

  10. nobomojo says:

    ohhh yeahhh! my alma mater! GO HEELS!

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      Oh, YEAH! Go HEELS!

      We’re only about 30 minutes away from UNC-CH; I’m already trying to convince my kids that we need two kids at UNC-CH, one at NC State, and one at Elon (we’re part of the ABD club, Coach K notwithstanding). Now, we only need to figure out which of our organs we’re going to sell to afford putting four kids through college.

      • nobomojo says:

        I’m totally part of the ABD club. HOWEVER– I do live in Durham, which I believe to be superior to CH/Carr. Good luck with your chillins. no need to sell organs-just make sure you apply for fafsa and expect some student debt when they graduate. but if they stick to state schools that number should be less than $20,000 each. private schools like Elon– ouch.

        • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

          We’re saving Elon for whichever kid turns out to be smartest…I need at least one of ’em to make a gazillion buck to support mama in her old age. :D

          In truth, Elon is right up the road from us and I’m always impressed with the students I meet who are studying there. We had a whole group of Phoenix coaching one of our kiddos soccer teams…they were the nicest, most upbeat kids I’d ever met. They really spent a lot of time getting the team into shape, including seeking out team sponsors on their own so parents wouldn’t have to foot the bill for uniforms and gear. It was a great experience.

  11. Donathius says:

    I guess that’s a good deal if you’re only looking at big name schools. The state university I work for is roughly $2,000 a semester for residents and $5,000 for non-residents (we’ve got 32,000 students this semester). There’s also a large private university (~28,000 students) literally 2 miles down the street that is $2,500-$3,500 depending on your degree program (course fees).

    • Donathius says:

      Oh – and we have open enrollment with no cap. The only requirement for attending is a heartbeat.

      • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

        Do they have diplomas on rolls in the bathrooms? Because that’s about how useful an open enrollment college diploma is.

  12. ibuprofane says:

    FTA: “We start with academic quality, including the school’s student-faculty ratio, its admission rate and its four-year graduation rate. We then factor in affordability, such as the total cost of attendance with or without financial aid.”

    I would have assumed that “Value” would include the ability to pay off the students loans with a decent salary. I guess not.

  13. Bryan Price says:

    Good luck in getting into University of Florida. Either last year or this year, a student with a 4.0 average was turned away.

    • shuffle69 says:

      I didn’t get into UF–not even summer school option–in 2007 (which is when it really started getting tough, I had a 1380, 3.9 GPA, and went to a well known, private college preparatory high school in SoFla. Luckily, I didn’t want to go there and ended up at FSU, which has always been my dream. Couldn’t be happier! GO NOLES!

  14. NickelMD says:

    Why yes. Yes it is.

    I did all 8 years in the UNC system. When I started my undergrad it was $381/semester. When I finished med school it was ~1000/semester. And my student loans just dipped under 5 figures.


  15. BurtReynolds says:

    Surprised to see my alma mater, Binghamton University, is still so high on the list. In the past couple years it seems they’ve let the athletic department run amok in an attempt to become more of a sports school. The fact they are governed by the most dysfunctional state government in the US doesn’t help them out either. All I can say is I am glad the last president finally left. Maybe the new guy can just focus on it being a solid place to get an education, instead of trying to create a rival to Syracuse on the basketball court.

    They also used to be one of the top “green” schools, but in the past year they decided to allow gas exploration, to possibly include hydrofracking, on university-owned land. Nevermind the fact that Broome County, NY gets its drinking water from a sole-source aquifer.