Chapel Hill Herald editorial: Value is the key word in higher education today

Jan. 06, 2013 @ 03:18 PM

More than ever before, paying for a higher education costs – a lot.

But the trend of ever-rising tuition and fees at universities might just be starting to trend in the other direction.

A recent report in the Washington Post indicated that some private universities have frozen or even reduced costs for the upcoming year. At least 24 private institutions have taken action to reduce or keep costs flat.

Public institutions also have to come to grips with the reality that not every family can afford a limitlessly expensive college education.

This leads to the question: How do public universities approach these issues?

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently earned praise for a unique distinction: UNC-Chapel Hill ranked as the No. 1 value in American public higher education. UNC-Chapel Hill was lauded for its value as it relates to in-state students; UNC also ranked as the second-best value for out-of-state students.

A public university should approach its mission, at least in part, as striving to provide an affordable education to young people who are residents of its state. “The University of North Carolina” is a name that should mean exactly what it states.

Kiplinger’s magazine lists the top value universities every year, and UNC-Chapel Hill ranked first for the 12th time in a row.

“Access and affordability are what allow us to attract great students from a broad range of backgrounds with different interests and different career goals,” said UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp in a news release. “I can’t think of an aspect of this University that is more crucial to who we are. It’s the marriage of that with the academic excellence that creates the environment and the unique nature of Carolina.”

UNC and Virginia were the only two top public universities that meet 100 percent of the documented need for all undergraduate students, including qualified students from out of state.

N.C. State placed 21st on the list, the UNC School of the Arts was 31st, UNC-Wilmington was 32nd, Appalachian State was 36th, and UNC Asheville was 52nd. Standards measured include admission rate, retention of students, low average debt at graduation, and other factors.

North Carolina has a well-deserved reputation for high quality higher education. Value is an important part of that equation, and will continue to be.