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Carolina ranks first among the nation’s public universities in The Princeton Review’s list of the 2012 “Best Value Colleges.”

The ranking was based on institutional data and student opinion surveys collected from fall 2010 through fall 2011, according to The Princeton Review. “Broadly speaking, the factors we weighed covered undergraduate academics, costs and financial aid,” said The Princeton Review website. “Additionally, we considered the percentage of graduating seniors who borrowed from any loan program and the average dollar amount of debt those students had at graduation.”

Following UNC-Chapel Hill among the public universities were the University of Virginia, New College of Florida, State University of New York at Binghamton and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Rounding out the top 10 were the universities of Florida, Georgia, Washington and Texas. In a separate list of private universities, Williams College came out on top.

The Princeton Review list also is featured in the education services company’s book, “The Best Value Colleges: 2012 Edition.” Related information appears on the company’s website, and in reports published Tuesday (February 7) by USA Today. Those postings include an interactive map and a database with statistics and information out each campus. The rankings also were featured on NBC-TV’s “The Today Show.”

Users can click on an exclusive interactive map and access a database with stats and facts about each “Best Value” college plus a report on why the Princeton Review named it a “Best Value.” The Princeton Review has teamed up with USA TODAY to present this resource online since 2009.
The Princeton Review said the rankings process included review of data covering academics, cost of attendance and financial aid.

UNC-Chapel Hill has protected academics while absorbing more than $230 million in state budget reductions since 2008 by focusing cuts on administrative areas until this year, when course sections and classroom seats declined and class sizes increased. Carolina Counts, a campus-wide initiative to make operations more efficient following a Bain & Company study, has identified and implemented $50 million in permanent administrative savings.

UNC-Chapel Hill is one of two top public universities (along with Virginia) that meet 100 percent of the documented need for all undergraduate students.

In fall 2011, Carolina enrolled 4,026 first-year students from a record 23,753 applications. Eighty percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class, and they posted an average 1300 on the SAT. Eighteen percent were first-generation college students; another 12 percent were eligible for the Carolina Covenant, which promises qualified low-income students the chance to graduate debt-free.

Financial aid packages make up about two-thirds grants and scholarships and one-third loans and work-study. About 35 percent of Carolina seniors graduating in May 2011 borrowed and left with cumulative average debt of $15,472, down from $16,165 the previous year. The national average is about $25,000.

Measured in constant dollars, the average cumulative debt for 2011 graduates was $2,525 less than the average cumulative debt for those who graduated in 2000.

UNC-Chapel Hill graduates 81 percent of undergraduates in four years, and 90 percent in six years. In 2010, 97 percent of first-year students returned for their sophomore year.

Published February 7, 2012.