100 best value state universities: Really?


Does anybody out there think that a school that costs $51,000 is a good value?

I didn't think so.

You will find, however, a lot of extremely expensive schools on the annual list of the 100 best value public universities that Kiplinger's Personal Finance released with great fanfare this week.

The schools on the list, according to the magazine, "combine outstanding education with economic value." It's hard to fathom, however, how anyone looking at the top 10 universities on the list could possibly believe that these schools represent a good value. The University of California, Berkeley, for instance, costs nonresidents $51,905 and UCLA is just a tad under that. It's hardly a bargain.

Kiplinger's Top 10 Values in Public Colleges

1. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, $37,454

2. University of Florida, $45,803

3. University of Virginia, $45,948

4. College of William and Mary, $45,331

5. New College of Florida, $38,487

6. University of Georgia, $37,468

7. University of California, Berkeley, $51,905

8. University of Maryland, College Park, $36,780

9. UCLA, $51,052

10. University of California, San Diego, $49,110

Charging Steep Prices

The schools that can get away with charging nonresidents such steep prices are typically the premier flagship universities. They include institutions like UCLA, University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley. Students all over the country have heard about these schools and have watched their sports teams compete. These institutions end up on a lot of dream school lists.

Flagships universities have been increasingly reaching out to rich nonresidents because the institutions, financially squeezed by their state governments, desperately need the revenue. These public schools can charge two to three times what they charge their own residents. In a controversial trend, premier flagship institutions have been attracting an increasingly wealthy student body of outsiders while turning away more low and middle-income students in their own states.

10 Priciest State Universities

Ironically, some of the state universities that made Kiplinger's best value list also made US News & World Report's list of the 10 priciest schools for nonresidents. I wrote about this list in July:

10 Most Expensive State Universities for Outsiders

If you're going to believe any list, believe the one generated by U.S. News.

And if you hope to attend a premier out-of-state public university, be prepared to pay a bundle. But before you do, ask yourself if it's really worth it.

UCLA photo courtesy of Flickr user adietler.