UT ranks as ‘best value’ college

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UT ranks among the top 50 universities in The Princeton Review’s Best Value Colleges of 2011 list.

The list assessed schools based on institutional data and student opinion surveys that The Princeton Review collected from the 650 most academically outstanding institutions. The list ranked 50 schools, with the top 10 schools in order and the bottom 40 unranked. UT stood in the bottom 40 with schools such as Texas A&M University and the University of Colorado-Boulder.

“One of the things that stuck out was the raw sticker price,” said Rob Franek, senior vice president and publisher of The Princeton Review. “The average cost [of tuition] per year is around $9,000 while the national average [for state schools] is around $16,000, so UT-Austin is already doing better than the national average.”

The Princeton Review calculated value according to cost of attendance, financial aid and academic factors. To be considered a valuable option, a school must either charge low tuition relative to other colleges or offer sufficient financial aid to offset a higher tuition, according to The Princeton Review web site.

“We don’t just look at price, we make sure that the universities are providing an exceptional educational experience for the money students pay,” Franek said.

The list released Tuesday used in-state tuition figures to rank the colleges in value. UT tuition, not including room and board, totals more than $8,500 for 2010-2011 for residents and more than $28,500 per year for non-residents, according to UT’s website.

“As an out-of-state student, not receiving financial aid makes [UT] difficult to afford,” said Elisabeth Newell, advertising and rhetoric and writing junior. “I’ve applied for FAFSA aid the past two years and haven’t received it.”

Nationally, college costs rose each year for the past 20 years at three times the rate of inflation, Franek said.

To combat rising tuition costs, the Texas-Exes have started a new program called the “40 Acres Scholars Program” which intends to make financial issues less of a decisive factor for potential UT students. The program aims to raise $150 million for merit-based scholarships to make UT more competitive with other top-tier institutions.

In 2009-2010, the University gave out $204 million in grants and scholarships, said Tom Melecki, director of Student Financial Services. Among those who received money, the average grant per student was $6,000 and the average scholarship per student was $4,800, he said.

“The scholarships given are a reflection of what a terrific student body we have,” Melecki said.