There's always a lot of talk about "value" in college. That term relates many times to the so-called ROI factor, Return On Investment. Yesterday I received some interesting college value-related information from TextbookRush: The Best Value College in Each State for 2019, put together by Alison Blankenship.
Before I get into the actual best-value listings, let's take a closer look at what value means when it comes to colleges. In my research to find out about that, one source kept coming up high on my search-results lists: U.S. News. According to its rationale for defining college value in the Best Value rankings, U.S. News considers three variables during the evaluation methodology process:
… To determine which colleges and universities offer the best value for students, U.S. News takes into account both academic quality and cost …
In its calculations leading to ranking value, … [the] ratio of quality to price accounted for 60% of the overall score; the percentage of all undergraduates receiving need-based grants accounted for 25%; and the average discount accounted for 15% …
… The Best Value rankings were based on the following three variables:
1. Ratio of quality to price: A school's overall score in the 2020 Best Colleges rankings was divided by the net cost for the 2018-2019 academic year for a student receiving the average need-based financial aid award in scholarships or grants.
The higher the ratio of a school's 2020 Best Colleges overall score to the discounted total cost for the academic year (after subtracting the average 2018-2019 academic year need-based scholarship or grant aid), the better the value.
Total cost equals the sum of these costs for each school in the 2018-2019 academic year: tuition, room and board, fees, books and other expenses, including transportation. For schools that didn't break out these items separately, U.S. News used their comprehensive fee for tuition and room and board.
2. Need-based aid: Another factor is the percentage of all undergraduates receiving need-based scholarships or grants during the 2018-2019 academic year. The higher the percentage, the better the indicator scores in the ranking.
3. Average discount: This is the percentage of a school's 2018-2019 total sticker cost – tuition, room and board, fees, books and other expenses – that was covered by the average need-based scholarship or grant award for undergraduates in the 2018-2019 academic year. The higher the discount percentage, the better the indicator scores in the ranking.
Check out the Methodology
Thus, that's how U.S. News approaches calculating college value. To contrast that, and as an introduction to my headline source's Best Value College in Each State listing, here's a glimpse at what Blankenship says about TexbookRush's methodology:
… we looked into the data to see how college costs stack up against post-graduation earnings, both six and ten years post-enrollment. In other words, these are the colleges that will earn you the most salary post-graduation relative to what you paid to attend. Our data comes straight out of the most recent College Scorecard release, which tracks everything from attendance figures and acceptance rate to student debt and more …
… Leveraging the data from College Scorecard, we looked at three variables:
- The cost of attendance
- Earnings six years post-enrollment (early career)
- Earnings 10 years post-enrollment (established career)
From there, we limited our list to remove community colleges so we could focus specifically on primarily undergraduate institutions. Finally, we ranked colleges on each attribute and averaged the three numbers to determine which ones had outcomes of strong career earnings both in the short term and long term without breaking the bank to get there ...
Using that approach, Alison presents TextbookRush's Top 10 best-value schools and the states where they're located:
1. New York – United States Merchant Marine Academy
2. Georgia – Augusta University
3. Connecticut – University of Connecticut – Stamford
4. West Virginia – American Public University System
5. California – California State University Maritime Academy
6. Nebraska – Bellevue University
7. Minnesota – Capella University
8. Florida – University of Florida – Online
9. Utah – Brigham Young University – Provo
10. Washington – University of Washington – Tacoma
In its full listing for each state, you'll find these information headings:
- Name of State
- Name of College
- Cost of Attendance
- Early Career Earnings
- Established Career Earnings
Here are the first dozen, listed alphabetically:
Alaska - Univ. of Alaska, Anchorage: $19,126, $41,500, $51,200
Alabama - Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville: $22,108, $40,300, $52,000
Arkansas - Univ. of Arkansas: $22,122, $40,900, $52,700
Arizona - Chamberlain Univ.-Arizona: $25,746, $69,800, $60,400
California - Cal State Maritime Academy: $22,301, $76,700, $87,800
Colorado - University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus: $21,105, $48,700, $71,200
Connecticut - Univ. of Conn.-Stamford: $15,747, $49,800, $66,000
Delaware - Univ. of Delaware: $25,210, $48,100, $64,000
Florida - University of Florida-Online: $16,735, $47,700, $65,700
Georgia - Augusta University: $17,946, $52,300, $70,600
Hawaii - Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa: $23,015, $39,000, $51,800
Iowa - University of Iowa: $21,875, $47,700, $62,000
There's a nice graphic, too, if you'd like to see the colleges listed in a map form.
Clearly, there are a number of ways to search for value in higher education. The above two may provide you with the information you need to start or complete your candidate list as your college search begins or develops.
A word to the wise: Check any "value" source's methodology before scanning the ratings to make sure that the schools listed are chosen according to your needs, or at least as close as possible to what you're looking for.
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