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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranks as the number one value in American public higher education because it offers students “stellar academics” at a bargain price, according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

For the 12th time in a row, UNC-Chapel Hill ranked first on Kiplinger’s list of the 100 universities and colleges that provide the best value to in-state students. The magazine also listed Carolina second for the best value offered to out-of-state students.

Kiplinger’s periodically has ranked the best public campus values since 1998; Carolina has been first every time. The new ranking appears in the February issue, posted Thursday (Dec. 27) at

“Access and affordability are what allow us to attract great students from a broad range of backgrounds with different interests and different career goals,” said UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp. “I can’t think of an aspect of this University that is more crucial to who we are. It’s the marriage of that with the academic excellence that creates the environment and the unique nature of Carolina.”

The universities of Florida, Virginia and the College of William and Mary ranked second, third and fourth, followed by the Universities of Maryland at College Park (fifth), New College of Florida (seventh) and the universities of California at Los Angeles (sixth), Berkeley (eighth) and San Diego (10th). The State University of New York at Geneseo ranked ninth for in-state value and first for out-of-state value.

Other UNC system campuses on the list are NC State, 21st; UNC School of the Arts, 31st; UNC-Wilmington, 32nd; Appalachian State, 36th; and UNC-Asheville, 52nd.

Kiplinger’s assesses quality according to a number of measurable standards, including the admission rate, the percentage of students who return for sophomore year, the student-faculty ratio and the four-year graduation rate. Cost criteria include low sticker prices, abundant financial aid and low average debt at graduation.

Kiplinger’s story, “Best Values in Public Colleges,” focused on how Carolina, “a perennial favorite,” came out on top yet again. “Credit its stellar academics, reasonable sticker price and generous financial aid,” wrote Susannah Snider, Kiplinger’s staff writer.

The story pointed out that Carolina is one of only two top public universities (along with Virginia) that meet 100 percent of the documented need for all undergraduate students, including qualified out-of-state students.

“Meeting full need is a huge challenge, but it is such a high priority for us that we make whatever adjustments we have to,” UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in the story.

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Published December 27, 2012.