Three Oklahoma universities were cited in a national financial magazine for providing quality education at low cost.
Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine released its 2013 Best Values in Public Colleges list recently. Included among the 100 schools listed were the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
The list ranks schools based on quality of education and affordability. In this year's list, OU was ranked at 70th-best for in-state students, a drop from its 67th ranking in 2012. Likewise, OSU edged down slightly, falling from 92nd in 2012 to 93rd this year. USAO edged up, climbing from 93rd in 2012 to 91st this year.
USAO also had the lowest total cost per year for both resident and nonresident students, and the lowest cost after need-based aid for resident students. The school ranked second for cost after need-based aid for nonresident students, after the University of Minnesota-Morris.
Marc Wojno, senior associate editor for Kiplinger's, said the rankings emphasize quality slightly over affordability. The magazine uses a number of factors to gauge educational quality, he said, including competitiveness, graduation rates and the level of academic support.
Each of the three Oklahoma schools benefited from strong showings in certain areas, especially cost and the number of students per faculty member, Wojno said.
OU's students posted relatively high ACT scores, with 72 percent of the university's incoming freshman class scoring a 24 or higher on the entrance exam.
The university also posted a student-to-faculty ratio of 18 to 1. That ratio is low for a university of OU's size, Wojno said — other schools included in the list have rates up to 25 to 1.
OSU's incoming freshman class was somewhat behind OU's class in terms of ACT scores, with 63 percent scoring a 24 or higher. Likewise, the school's student-to-faculty ratio is slightly above OU's, with 19 students per faculty member.
But OSU is less expensive than OU, with a sticker price of about $15,500 per year and an average cost of about $8,800 after need-based aid is applied. OU's sticker price is about $18,000 per year and its average cost is about $12,000 per year after need-based aid.
Both OSU and OU posted lackluster scores for four-year graduation rates, Wojno said. OU's rate stood at 36 percent, and OSU's was 35 percent.
USAO's ACT scores fell behind the other two Oklahoma schools — just 44 percent of its incoming freshman class scored a 24 or higher on the exam. But the university's low cost makes it an attractive choice, Wojno said.
The school's student-to-faculty ratio of 14 to 1 is also a positive attribute, he said.
“It's one of the lowest on our list,” he said.
Officials at all three schools said they were pleased to be included in the ranking. OU spokeswoman Catherine Bishop noted the university also has been included in a similar list produced by the Princeton Review.
“We are pleased, but not surprised, that OU continues to be recognized in nationwide surveys in terms of academic excellence and best value to students,” Bishop said.
OSU spokesman Gary Shutt said the ranking is an important one, particularly at a time when college affordability is a major priority of higher education officials and policymakers.
“Kiplinger's is a longtime, well-respected publication,” Shutt said. “OSU is pleased to be regularly recognized by Kiplinger's as a top value in higher education.”
In a statement, USAO President John Feaver said the rankings reflected not just on the institutions themselves, but the state as a whole.
“USAO is proud to join Oklahoma's two research universities on this independently generated report that emphasizes value,” Feaver said.
“It reflects strong leadership from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the governor's office and the legislature in placing such a high premium on results-based education.”
Topping the list is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is followed by the University of Virginia and the University of Florida.