'Value' in higher education
An article I wrote for Monday's paper posits St. Mary's College of Maryland as one of the great values in higher education.
Lists of "top values" in academia are wildly popular, perhaps second only to rankings of colleges in overall quality.
"Value" is a loaded word. Surely, it doesn't simply mean "cheap." If it did, the top values in our Washington region would all be two-year community colleges and those four-year public colleges that charge the least tuition. Some of the annual lists of "top values" include private colleges that charge two or three times as much as public institutions.
Maryland and Virginia colleges fare comparatively well on these lists, particularly the public schools, underscoring the wide variety of high-caliber state colleges in both states.
You might assume that everyone reads these lists from top to bottom. But perhaps not. In conversations with a few fellow parents over the weekend, it became clear to me that St. Mary's College remains something of a secret even in Montgomery County, a place where one adult in 20 holds a doctorate. I would bet that St. Mary's counterpart in Virginia, the public liberal arts college University of Mary Washington, may not yet be known to every parent in the commonwealth.
Let's see how the publications themselves define the term, and how our local schools stack up in the two best-known lists.
Princeton Review and USA Today
This Best Value Colleges list attempts to find the public and private colleges offering "high-quality academics at a reasonable price," and considers "more than 30 factors in three areas: academics, costs and financial aid."
Two colleges in the Washington region make the Top 10 list among public universities:
1. University of Virginia
8. Virginia Tech
Also on the list: St. Mary's College, Salisbury University and the United States Naval Academy in Maryland; William and Mary, James Madison University and the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.
On the private side, two Virginia schools are represented -- the University of Richmond and Sweet Briar College -- but neither cracks the Top 10.
This publication sorts 100 Best Values each in private and public higher education, twice as many as the USA Today and Princeton Review. In search of best quality and price point, the editors start by homing in on 120 schools purely based on academic quality. Only then do they factor in cost and financial aid.
On the private side, the rankings are split into national universities and liberal arts schools. In the first group, the University of Richmond is the top-ranked school in the Washington area, ranked 14th; Johns Hopkins ranks 20th, Georgetown 26th. Among liberal arts schools, Washington and Lee University is the sole local representative, ranked 7th.
Among public universities, we have U-Va. and College of William and Mary ranked 3 and 4, University of Maryland at 8 and Virginia Tech at 16. Also: James Madison University (21), St. Mary's (37), University of Mary Washington (38), Salisbury University (59), George Mason University (64), UMBC (93) and Towson University (97).
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Daniel de Vise
June 1, 2010; 10:04 AM ET
Categories: Access , Admissions , Aid , Finance , Liberal Arts , Privates , Publics , Rankings | Tags: best value colleges, st. mary's college maryland, top values higher education
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