UNC-Chapel Hill named best value in U.S. public higher education

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine declared Carolina the leader in higher education based on quality of education and affordability

South Building
Graduation banners hang at South Building May 9, 2016, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

For the 17th time, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is the best value in American public higher education, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

The top ranking reflects the University’s commitment to opening access to a high-quality, affordable education to talented students from all backgrounds. The University is one of the few public flagships to practice need-blind admissions and provide low-debt, full-need student aid.

“We have fantastic students and a faculty dedicated to providing each one with the opportunity to achieve their dreams in all areas of human endeavor,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “An excellent and affordable education, without fear of overwhelming debt, is one of the many ways we support our students. Being recognized for the 17th time as the best value in American public higher education demonstrates our long-standing commitment.”

Carolina leads the way in college affordability with several innovative initiatives. In 2017, the University committed $83 million in institutional funds to need-based financial aid. In June 2017, the University was recognized nationally for its efforts to ensure all students had the opportunity to succeed with the prestigious Cooke Prize for Equity in Educational Excellence.

Some of the ways Carolina has expanded college affordability include:

  • Carolina Covenant Eligible students whose household income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level have the opportunity to graduate from Carolina debt-free. Currently, 13 percent of UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduates are Covenant Scholars.
  • Carolina Edge As part of the Campaign for Carolina, the University’s $4.25 billion fundraising campaign, the Carolina Edge seeks to raise $1 billion for undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships in areas such as the Carolina Covenant, middle-income scholarships, merit scholars, summer internship grants, athletics and graduate and professional school financial aid.
  • Generous need-based financial aid packages Ninety-three percent of institutional financial aid and scholarship resources are devoted to meeting financial need, with only seven percent directed to merit-based scholarships.

These initiatives and programs have proven results. Only 40 percent of seniors who graduated from Carolina in 2015 accumulated any debt, compared with nearly 70 percent nationally, and the average debt among those who borrowed was $20,127, nearly $10,000 below the national average. Over the last decade, cumulative debt at graduation among borrowers grew by about $3,000 at UNC-Chapel Hill, compared to $10,000 nationwide.

Carolina is not only committed to helping students afford college, but also to supporting them throughout their college career and on to graduation. Through strong retention efforts, the gaps in retention and graduation rates between low-income and other students has narrowed dramatically over the last decade and are now almost completely closed.

The Kiplinger’s rankings are developed based on measures of academic quality, including SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and four-year graduation rates. The editors then rank the schools using cost and financial aid measures. Academic quality carries more weight than costs.

The full rankings are now available online at kiplinger.com/links/colleges and will appear in February 2018 print issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, on newsstands January 9.