Office of Planning and Budgeting

On December 15, 2016, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance released its 2017 list of the top 300 “Best College Values.” Kiplinger’s ranks their top 100 public universities based on both in-state and out-of-state cost of attendance. The University of Washington was ranked #12 among public universities in value for in-state students and #24 among public universities in value for out-of-state students. This continues a history of high rankings for the UW. Over the past five years, the UW has ranked #17 or better for in-state state students, and #28 or better for out-of-state students, each year.

The calculations for Kiplinger’s rankings are based on quality criteria (which account for 55 percent of an institution’s overall ranking) and cost criteria (which account for the remaining 45 percent). Quality criteria include:

  • Measures of competitiveness and selectivity (admission rate, percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll, and ACT and SAT scores of incoming freshman);
  • Four-year graduation rate; and
  • Measures of academic support (freshman retention rate and student-to-faculty ratio).

Cost criteria include:

  • Total cost (including tuition and fees as well as books and room and board, with added points for “schools that reduce the price through need-based [grant] aid” or “knock down the price through non-need-based aid”) and
  • Student indebtedness (students’ average debt at graduation and the percentage of students who borrow).

Because public institutions typically have different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students, Kiplinger’s provides two separate rankings. While the quality criteria used in both rankings are the same, only in-state students’ cost of attendance factors into the in-state ranking (and likewise for the out-of-state ranking).

As the Kiplinger’s ranking is based on selectiveness, academic outcomes, and cost, it should not be interpreted as either a “best colleges” list or a “most affordable” list. Among the top 10 public institutions for in-state students, for example, some institutions (e.g., College of William and Mary) are highly selective but more expensive, while others (e.g., University of Florida) have more inclusive admissions and lower four-year graduation rates but are more affordable.

For in-state students, the UW compares strongly with the highest-ranked public institutions on measures of affordability. For example, the UW’s cost of attendance for in-state students, after applying need-based aid, is $7,800 per year. The average cost among the top 10 in-state is 50 percent higher, at $11,700. UW students’ average debt at graduation is also lower, by about $2,000, than the average for top-10 institutions. Although the UW’s admit rate is higher and its four-year graduation rate is lower than some other top institutions’, its relative affordability contributes to a strong ranking (#12 in the nation) for in-state students.

The UW’s higher cost for out-of-state students contributes to an out-of-state ranking of #24. For out-of-state students, the UW’s cost of attendance after need-based aid ($31,800) is slightly higher than the average among top-10 institutions ($31,300).

More information about Kiplinger’s methodology is available on their website.