Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine recently ranked UC Irvine 21st on their annual compilation of the nation’s “100 Best Value Public Colleges” in terms of education quality and attendance costs. The ranking illustrates how UCI is a first-rate institution that provides high education at an affordable price despite rising tuition costs.
Jane Clark, who was in charge of the study and Kiplinger’s senior associate editor, noted the importance of combining both financial and academic quality measures in the report, such as the SAT scores of incoming freshmen, student-faculty ratio, admissions rate, graduation rate, total cost of attendance and the cost after subtracting grants, but not loans. She stated that her study gave more weight to academic quality, accounting for almost two-thirds of the total, but could not disclose the specific weight of each criterion. To break ties, Kiplinger’s used academic quality scores and average debt at graduation.
“We give more weight to the academic quality measures because we believe real value starts with quality,” Clark said.
Clark pointed out that Kiplinger’s gathers some of the information reported in their rankings list from Peterson’s, a leading search provider of colleges and universities that conducts an annual survey of more than 500 public four-year colleges and universities. She also noted that Kiplinger’s collect some cost information themselves.
“Peterson’s supplies us with the quality scores as well as the average debt at graduation,” Clark said.
Kiplinger’s rankings left out schools with special programs, including military schools and service academies, in their study. Clark mentioned that she was given limited space in the magazine for the report, but also pointed to the magazine’s reader demographics as a reason for only focusing on public colleges instead of including private or partially private schools.
“Because we have only limited space in the magazine, we’re unable to cover institutions with special programs,” Clark said. “We believe that traditional four-year institutions with broad-based curriculums are likely to be of the most interest to our readers.”
Incoming undergraduates often look to the college rankings compiled by U.S. News and World Report as a source in deciding to which schools they will apply and commit. However, Clark stated a distinction between the two studies while bringing up the reliability of Kiplinger’s report, considering the current state of our economy.
“I can’t speak to the rankings compiled by U.S. News [and World Report], but I can tell you that our rankings are compiled according to measurable criteria, such as cost of attendance and student-faculty ratio, rather than subjective opinions,” Clark said. “During difficult economic times, students and their families have all the more reason to seek out a high-quality education at an affordable price. Our rankings show public institutions that deliver on both, which is why we consider them the best values for 2008-09.”