UM Makes Kiplinger’s ‘Best Value’ Lists

University recognized for offering 'a quality education without the Ivy League price tag'

KiplingerOXFORD, Miss. – When it comes to value in higher education, the University of Mississippi is officially among the nation’s best.

So say the editors of the 2014 Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, who have placed UM on both its “25 Best College Values Under $30,000 a Year” and “Top 100 Values in Public Colleges” lists. The university is one of two SEC institutions on the former honor roll, ranked No. 16 behind the University of Arkansas (No. 5). UM is ranked number 78 on the latter. Millsaps College (No. 66) is the only other Mississippi institution to make Kiplinger’s rankings, on its “Top 100 Values in Liberal-Arts Colleges” list.

“When you look nationwide, the University of Mississippi stands out as a university with outstanding academic programs at a price substantially below similar universities, with the bonus of offering an outstanding collegiate experience,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “The fact that the University of Mississippi was named to these two prestigious lists is further confirmation that we are providing nationally recognized quality education.”

Kiplinger’s process in naming Best Values relies on data submitted by the colleges and universities. Non-U.S. schools and specialty schools, such as military academies, medical specialty schools and art schools, are not included. The list is narrowed down to the most selective universities, based on entrance exam scores of the 2013 freshman class.

To further reduce the list, additional quality measures are reviewed, including four- and six-year graduation rates, the number of freshmen who return as sophomores, student-faculty ratios, how much each college spends per student on instruction and how much each spends on maintaining its library resources.

As state funding has declined, college tuition has soared nationwide. But Ole Miss has several programs to help ease the costs of higher education for families. For example, the university annually awards hundreds of Luckyday Scholarships, ranging from $2,000 to $7,000 a year.

Luckyday scholar Brandi Rhoden, a sophomore majoring in social work from West Point, said she would have been unable to attend Ole Miss without the scholarship.

“If I hadn’t been awarded Luckyday funds, I would have had to go to another institution,” said Rhoden, who aspires to become a social worker specializing in family crisis interventions. “Luckyday is the primary reason I am attending the university.”

Another program is the Ole Miss Opportunity Scholarship program for low-income Mississippi students. Launched in 2010, OMO guarantees financial aid support for tuition, housing and meals. Approximately 128 students enrolled last fall under the program.

Private support is also a critical factor in the university’s surge in standing among American universities, said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the University of Mississippi Foundation.

“Even as the nation and other large institutions in our state see enrollment declines, the demand for entrance at the state’s flagship institution has never been higher,” Weakley said. “This is due in large part to the investments that donors have made and continue to make in this great university.”

Recently, the university announced that its private fundraising netted $114.6 million in fiscal 2013, the second straight year of more than $100 million in total support. Combined return was 12.6 percent, with global equity assets increasing more than 16 percent for the fiscal year.

“These gifts are essential to delivering on our promise to Mississippi of national leadership in higher education and service programs that advance our state,” Jones said. “The rewards of these donations can been seen in the top faculty and staff who have been attracted to our commitment to leadership and the national rankings and honors for so many of the educational opportunities offered at the university.”

For more information on the Kiplinger’s reports, visit this link.