UM Moves Up in Forbes Listing of Nation’s 20 Best College Buys

OXFORD, Miss. – Just days after announcing a near-record year in private giving, the University of Mississippi has picked up several national accolades reflecting the impact of those donations and the success of faculty and staff in continuous improvements.

Ole Miss moved up two spots to No. 18 in Forbes’ rankings of the nation’s “Best Value Colleges,” part of the annual America’s Top Colleges section. After being ranked No. 24 in 2010, the university moved up to No. 20 last year. This year, UM – sandwiched between the University of Utah and California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo – is the lone SEC school in the Top 20.

“The 18th ranking in value is particularly important in today’s environment,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “Despite our need to incrementally raise our tuition rates because of reduced state funding, the growing strength of our academic programs maintains us as an incredibly good value for students and families. This recognition is a testament to the remarkable work of our very fine faculty and staff and the generous support of our donors.”The America’s Top Colleges section includes several rankings and data on 650 colleges and universities. In the overall rankings, Ole Miss came in at No. 270, highest of any public university in Mississippi and sixth-highest in the 14-school Southeastern Conference. The university also came in No. 103 among research universities, highest in the state.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity, in conjunction with Forbes, compiled the report using five general categories: student satisfaction, which includes freshman-to-sophomore retention rates and faculty evaluations; postgraduate success, which measures alumni job placement, pay and professional achievement; student debt, with penalties for high debt loads and default rates; four-year graduation rate; and competitive awards, including prestigious scholarships such as the Rhodes, Truman and Marshall.

The rankings are designed to assist families in choosing a college based on getting the most quality for their tuition dollars.

“They do not attempt to assess a school’s reputation, nor are they a measure of academic selectivity and we pointedly ignore any metrics that would encourage schools to engage in wasteful spending,” Forbes editor Michael Noer writes in the introduction.

Princeton University tops the overall rankings. On the listing of “Best Value Colleges,” the top four are unchanged from last year: the United States Military Academy, Air Force Academy and Naval Academy, all of which have zero tuition, and Cooper Union, which provides scholarships for all its students.

As state funding has declined, college tuition has soared nationwide. But Ole Miss has several programs, including the Ole Miss Opportunity Scholarship program and dozens of other scholarships funded by alumni and friends, to help students and their families afford college.

Private support is 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.

“Our supporters are seeing solid evidence of a tremendous return on their investments in Ole Miss,” Weakley said. “Whether it is our ranking by Forbes as one of the best public universities in the five-state mid-South region or our top 10 ranking in the United States for our School of Accountancy, the investments by our donors are paying huge dividends. We deeply appreciate this continued support, and we are thankful for the trust placed in our university and our foundation.”

Earlier this week, the university announced that its private fundraising netted $122.6 million in fiscal 2012, the second-highest total in school history. This included $80.4 million in cash and realized gifts, up nearly 40 percent from fiscal 2011. New pledges receivable for this period to be paid in future years tripled from $7.1 million in fiscal 2011 to more than $21 million in fiscal 2012.

“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 be 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 Ole Miss.”

The Forbes listing is the second national publication to honor UM this week. The university is included in the “Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013,” which profiles the top 300 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. This is the second consecutive year for Ole Miss to be included as the only Mississippi school in this prestigious publication.

For more information on the Forbes report, go to