US News Best Value Ratings Seems to Neglect UC Tuition Reductions

US News Best Value Ratings Seems to Neglect UC Tuition Reductions

The University of California campuses have the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan which reduces or waives UC tuitions depending on family income.  This social equity program waives the $12,570 tuition and UC fees for families with yearly income below $80,000, and reduces tuition for incomes up to $150,000.  A major fraction of UC students qualify for tuition reduction.  Lower family income UC students also receive Federal Pell Grants, which nationally average $3,800.  37% of UC students qualify for Pell Grants.

Yet, the US News Best Value Ratings for 2020 starts with UCLA at ranking 111 as the highest ranked UC, and says that only 14% receive grants.  UC Irvine at 162 shows only 4% receive grants, and the average cost after grants is stated by US News as $49,821.  Yet, 59% of UCI students received need-based grants.   So it’s hard to understand where that large an average price after grants comes from.

Here are the detailed costs after grants for UC Irvine.  Please neglect the O’Neill School ad which I did not edit out.  17% of UCI students are foreign students. 

In contrast, Forbes rated UC Irvine as the number 1 best value University for your tuition dollar!  We ranked third overall in the Best Value Colleges Survey.  Money magazine also rated us third.  UCI was also the top choice for first-generation students, those from low income families, and underrepresented groups.  US News rated us #3 for social mobility.  Over 12,000 UCI students received Pell Grants, and UCI graduated more Pell students than any other school.  For resident students, the costs and financial aid are much better than the stated average, as we show below.  UCI graduates’ mean debt was $19,000, much lower than the national average.

About 75% of UC undergrads receive an average of $17,000 a year in gift aid.  With the 9 month cost of living on campus plus tuition and fees being $35,300 for residents, subtracting the aid, gives a remaining cost of $18,300.  This is in same range as the top 6 value universities after aid, and they keep about the same position as their academic ranking.  You could argue that from the point of view of California resident students who get aid, that they should use the much better academic rankings of UC campuses, to compare with the other universities.

Here are the leading value schools with their value rankings, and in parenthesis, their academic ranking, along with their average real cost with aid.  Repeated academic rankings are tied.

  1. Princeton (1) $16,438
  2. Harvard    (2) $15,972
  3. Yale.         (3) $17,298
  4. MIT.          (3) $20,334
  5. Stanford.  (6) $19,787
  6. Columbia  (3) $21,195


For UC campuses, lets recall from two posts ago, that: 

UCLA has a US News academic ranking of 20, which for residents should be used instead of an average value ranking of 111 with only 14% receiving aid.  

UC Berkeley has an academic ranking of 22, which for residents should replace the value ranking of 148 with only 12% receiving aid.  

UC Santa Barbara has an academic ranking of 34, not a value ranking of 156 with only 6% aid.  

UC Irvine has an academic ranking of 36, not a value ranking of 162 with only 4% receiving aid.

UC San Diego has an academic ranking of 37, not a value ranking of 160 with only 5% receiving aid.

UC Davis has an academic ranking of 39, not a value ranking of 159 with only 6% receiving aid.

UC Santa Cruz has an academic ranking of 84, not a value ranking of 175 with only 11% receiving aid.

UC Riverside has an academic ranking of 91, not a value ranking of 171 with only 1% receiving aid.

UC Merced has an academic ranking of 104, not a value ranking of 146 with 36% receiving aid.

Following Descartes, I still have some doubt that I am correct, since US News has a lot bigger computer and data department than me subtracting by hand, so they may somehow be right, but I also doubt that.  What I don’t have is the data per campus and the aides to reconstruct their process with the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan, and Pell grants. 

The important thing for high school applicants to know is that there is abundant aid at the leading Universities and the UC campuses, and not to get discouraged from applying to the best that they can qualify for.

The evaluation plan followed by US News is rating on Quality to Price for 60%, Need Based Grants Percent for 25%, and Average Discount at 15%.  Is it possible that they bury the effect of the Blue and Gold Plan in the 15%?

Here is a photo of their ranking criteria for value.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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