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Getting the Best Value from a Public University

By Peterson's Staff updated on Monday, October 14, 2013

Public university can be an affordable option

With accelerating costs and dwindling resources, you may find it difficult to acquire a high-quality college education without accumulating enormous debt. One option is to attend a public college because its costs can be significantly lower than a private one — particularly for residents of the states in which public colleges are located.

There are many public universities that offer excellent academic programs at affordable costs. Organizations like "The Princeton Review" and "Kiplinger" have developed ranking systems that can help you identify public universities and colleges with the best value.

Public opinion identifies value in public college

"The Princeton Review," an education services and test-preparation company, analyzes the most recently reported data for hundreds of private and public colleges. Surveys from administrators and students are used to identify the colleges, which are rated on more than 30 factors in 3 important areas: academics, costs, and financial aid.

Academic ratings are based on students' views about issues such as faculty accessibility and class size. The colleges' data about student-faculty ratios and the percentage of classes that are taught by teaching assistants are also used.

Similarly, financial aid ratings are based on school-reported data and student surveys. Costs such as tuition, room and board, books, required fees, and other expenses are also incorporated into the financial measurement.

Affordability ratings for public colleges

"Kiplinger," a publisher of business forecasts and personal finance information, only rates public universities and colleges. It compiles data on more than 500 schools — that offer broad-based curricula — to create a list of the top 4-year schools for academic quality and affordability.

Like "The Princeton Review," "Kiplinger" uses several measures to determine a public university's academic strength including SAT and ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and graduation rates. Affordability ratings are also based on several factors such as total expenses for in-state students, average costs for students after subtracting need-based or non-need-based grants, average percentage of financial need covered by aid, and average debt per student before graduation.

The same measures are used to determine academic and affordability ratings for out-of-state residents. In this case, affordability is based on total expenses for out-of-state students as well as average costs after financial aid for these students.

Public college guides aid with research

Although finding a public college that meets your criteria can be overwhelming, guides that rank public universities and colleges on important factors such as academic programs, expenses, and financial assistance can help you find the best public university for your investment.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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