Penn State students might not be getting the “most bang for their tuition buck,” according to a new ranking of top universities.
Money magazine placed the University Park campus at 177 on a list published this week of colleges that provide the most value for the cost of an education.
The list combined quality of education, affordability and how alumni fare in their careers in its calculations.
And although the formula looked favorably on Penn State, awarding it a B+, the university was still outpaced by most of its fellow Big Ten schools. Only Minnesota (183) and Nebraska (223) were lower in the conference.
Penn State did better when compared with other state-related schools in Pennsylvania, topping Temple (339) and Pittsburgh (319).
Money’s rankings come a month after a study by the U.S. Department of Education showed that Penn State is the second most expensive four-year public university in the country.
Penn State President Eric Barron has made accessibility and affordability priorities, and focused heavily on those topics last month in his first address to the university’s board of trustees.
It’s not clear how much Penn State’s tuition pushed the university down the rankings. Money estimated the net price of a Penn State degree at $142,806, which is actually less than the top school on the list, Babson College, with an estimated cost of $198,917.
Students who graduate from Babson, a small school (2,015 enrollment) in Massachusetts that specializes in business and entrepreneurship, can expect to make $59,700 on average five years after graduating, according to the list. That number at Penn State is $50,600, it shows.
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers suggested another factor that could affect the university’s ranking: the inclusion of financial aid, particularly need-based aid.
“Part of the problem in these types of calculations is the large number of students we serve,” she said in an email. “We are proud of our accessibility, but dividing the total amount of financial aid given annually by our nearly 40,000 student body at University Park makes our per-student figure of aid extraordinarily small.”
Powers said the university is doing more to provide financial aid for students, citing $519 million raised toward that goal in Penn State’s recently completed $2 billion fundraising campaign.
The university is also moving ahead with “specific opportunities aimed at mitigating some of the costs that students are incurring,” Powers said, citing Barron’s presentation to the board last month.
At the same meeting in July, the trustees voted to raise tuition by an average of 2.99 percent. For most in-state students at University Park, it means an extra $482 a year, pushing the total they pay annually for tuition to $16,572.
“The bottom line on this ranking, and any other rankings, is that potential students and their families need to determine their choices not just based on a magazine ranking, but by visiting an institution, weighing the pros and cons, talking with financial aid counselors from the institution and deciding if the university is a fit for them personally,” Powers said.