College named as best value university

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February 28, 2011

11:52 PM

The Princeton Review, known for its annual college and university rankings, named the College of William and Mary as the seventh-best value school among public universities in the United States Feb. 22. The University of Virginia came in first among public universities. The College was also ranked seventh in 2010.

The methodology behind the rankings involves criteria evaluating academics, cost of attendance and financial aid. According to College Spokesman Brian Whitson, the College stands out in each category.

“[There] are many rankings out there and what I think we find most satisfying is that the College regularly does well in all of them,” Whitson said in an e-mail. “Whether it’s a ranking about teaching and faculty or students, community service or value, William & Mary is recognized as a top institution.”

The Princeton Review is not alone in labeling the College as a best value university. In January, Kiplinger’s magazine ranked the College as the fourth best value school among public universities, just behind U.Va., which came in third.

“We’re always satisfied to receive third-party affirmation that William & Mary, when compared to its peers, offers an excellent educational experience at a reasonable price,” Whitson said. “We also know there is more work to do in making sure William & Mary remains affordable to all students. That is why we designate a significant portion of any tuition increase to financial aid.”

While the Princeton Review and other organizations rank the College highly as a best value school, the actual cost of attendance can vary considerably from student to student. Economics professor Robert Archibald said that the Princeton Review’s methodology could have an effect on the outcome of the rankings.

“The value has got to be somehow quality per dollar spent,” Archibald said. “The question I’d have, if I was talking to somebody from the Princeton Review, would be if this is for in-state students or out-of-state students. Because I think the value propositions that William and Mary offers in-state students is very different from the value propositions that it offers out-of-state students.”

According to statistics provided by the College’s Director of Financial Aid Ed Irish, 32 percent of in-state students demonstrated need for institutional financial aid from 2009-2010, while 36 percent of out-of-state students demonstrated need. The average aid package for Virginia residents amounted to $10,553, of which $7,871 came in the form of grants and while $2,662 came as work-study or loans. For non-Virginia residents, the average aid package totaled $14, 218, of which $10,758 came in the form of grants and $3,460 as work-study or loans.

While a larger percentage of out-of-state students receives institutional financial aid, and the average aid package for nonresidents is over 30 percent higher than the package for Virginia residents, total tuition and fees at the College for out-of-state students is more than 90 percent higher than it is for in-state students. Additionally, the average financial aid package for Virginia residents covers nearly half of the cost of in-state tuition and fees, while the package for nonresidents accounts for approximately 31 percent of out-of-state tuition and fees.

According to Archibald, this disparity stems from the sources of financial aid.

“That results from the fact that quite a bit of our financial aid that the College has available to give to students is financial aid that comes from Virginia state dollars, from the state government, and those cannot go to out-of-state students,” he said.

Despite the difference in the size of average financial aid packages, Archibald said that the College has to be considered a “good value” for at least some out-of-state students.

“They voted with their feet. They’re here, so they must think it’s, compared to their other options, a pretty good deal,” Archibald said. “It seems to me, if you’re a potential undergraduate, that U.Va. and William and Mary are by far and away your best options in the state of Virginia. I think if you’re interested in engineering, maybe Virginia Tech gets in that discussion, but other than that … those are clearly your two best options, and I’m sure the Princeton Review thinks that, too.”

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