At a time when the climate of public higher education in the US is going through a particularly inclement patch, Washington D.C.-based Kiplinger magazine has released its list of top 100 public colleges and universities that deliver outstanding education at an affordable cost.  At the top of the list for the tenth time running is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which has received mention by the editors for its selectivity and affordability in terms of cost.

According to the Kiplinger report, Carolina's admission rate remains among the lowest...its students are among the most competitive; and its in-state cost, at $17,000, is not much higher than the average price ($16,140) for all public universities. For students who qualify for need-based financial aid, the total price for this top-tier university drops to an average of $7,020. The report also calculates the average debt upon graduation at the University at $14,262.

Other schools which appear among the top five in order of their rank are:

2. University of Florida, Gainesville ($14,684; $15,932)*

3. University of Virginia, Charlottesville ($20,647; $19,939)*

4. The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg ($21,972; $18,410)*

5.  University of Maryland, College Park ($19,042; $20,256)*

* Figures in parenthesis indicate the total annual in-state tuition and the average debt upon graduation respectively.

Of these, the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary ranked 3 and 4 respectively have consistently featured in the top 5 of Kiplinger's list ever since it began publishing the rankings in 1998. The complete listing of 100 colleges together with in-state/out-of-state tuition, admissions rate, aid available, graduation rate and average debt upon graduation have been published on the website of the magazine.

The Kiplinger ranking of four-year traditional public schools with broad-based curricula, unlike many others which take into consideration subjective opinion, is based entirely on measurable criteria, such as student-faculty ratios, admission rates, on-time graduation rate, sticker price and need-based financial aid.

Starting with over 500 public four-year colleges and universities as listed by Peterson's/Nelnet, the magazine shortlists around 120 of them based on academic measures such as SAT or ACT scores, admission and retention rates, student-faculty ratios, and four- and six-year graduation rates. Thereafter each school is ranked on the basis of cost and financial aid available.

The magazine also publishes a similar list for private colleges, where the average sticker price is much higher. The list of best value private schools is topped by Princeton University, followed in order of rank by Yale University; California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; Rice University, Houston; and Duke University, Durham.