May 13

Ed’s ‘Best Buy’ Public Colleges and Universities

As last week drew to a close I decided to do some research to find out: What public colleges and universities are truly ‘best buys’?

I used these criteria to focus on value and quality to develop a list of Best Buy public colleges and universities, using data that any parent of a college-bound student can find online for nothing.

  • Freshman retention rate of 85 percent or better
  • Six-year graduate rate of 65 percent or better
  • In-state tuition and fees of less than $10,000
  • Out-of-state tuition and fees of less than $25,000
  • Student indebtedness of less than $27,000, the maximum one can borrow under the Federal Stafford loan program.

The list of public colleges and universities that I was able to build included three of my ‘Public Ivies.”

  • Binghamton University (NY)
  • James Madison University (VA)
  • SUNY-Geneseo (NY)

I’ll be watching these Best Buys to see if they might become Public Ivies. Their freshman retention rates are rising quite close to, or have surpassed, 90 percent. Their six-year graduation rates have moved past 70 percent as well.

  • Florida State University
  • North Carolina State University
  • SUNY-University at Buffalo

And these are the rest of the Best Buy schools:

  • Appalachian State University (NC)
  • Illinois State University
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • SUNY-Stony Brook University
  • SUNY-University at Albany
  • Truman State University (MO)
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Mary Washington (VA)
  • University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse
  • University of North Carolina-Wilmington
  • Towson University (MD)

Keep in mind that I have not assessed the campus life or the academic experience at all of these public colleges and universities. I have personally visited five of these public colleges and universities: Binghamton, Geneseo, James Madison, Mary Washington and Towson. I would be delighted to share my opinions about them. I hope to visit the remaining schools in New York State before the year is out.

I will update this list of public colleges and universities in the fall after the schools release new data. However, this should help to get any family off to a start if they are planning college visits during the summer or fall.


1 ping

  1. Anne

    I do not understand why you would use six-year graduation rate as an indicator of a Best Buy. It should take 4 years to graduate. Paying for any more time no longer makes it a “best buy.”

    1. Ed Quest

      Hi Anne,

      That is a fair comment, and it would be especially true had I attempted to provide a list of private colleges which are far more expensive.

      I used the six-year graduation rate because students who attend publicly-supported schools are more likely to take more time to finish when something causes disruption in their lives. That could be family circumstances, a job, military service, illness, even academic difficulties. It is not uncommon, for instance, for students who attend a public university to reduce their course load for a semester or two and pay the tuition and fees during that time rather than borrow. That may mean more time to complete the degree, but less debt at the end.

      In addition, you will find that there are few four-year public institutions that graduate at least half of a freshman class within four years. Had I used the four-year rate, I know that Albany, Binghamton, Geneseo, James Madison, Mary Washington and Truman State would have made that cut.

  1. UMW Receives Accolades for Affordability | News and Public Information

    […] 2013 rankings of the 50 “Most Affordable Colleges with a High Return on Investment (ROI)” and EducatedQuest.com named UMW to its list of 2013 “Best Buy Public Colleges and […]

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