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Posted on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Is a University of Michigan education a good value? Ranking reports yes

By Kellie Woodhouse

Thumbnail image for UofMCampus_JT_09.jpg

Students traverse University of Michigan's campus during the autumn of 2012.

How much bang for your buck are you getting at the University of Michigan?

According to Kiplinger, the Ann Arbor school is the 11th best in-state value among public colleges.

For out-of-state students, it's ranked as the 18th best value— in spite of being the most expensive school for non-residents on a list of 100 'best value' public institutions.


A University of Michigan walks through campus during a recent December 2012 snowstorm.

Melanie Maxwell |

Kiplinger released its Best Values in Public Colleges 2012-13 list month. The list ranks public schools across the nation based on cost, financial aid, overall student loan debt, competitiveness and academic excellence of public schools.

Cost factors composed 45 percent of the formula, while academics composed the remaining 55 percent.

The top five in-state values, as ranked by Kiplinger:

  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  2. University of Virginia
  3. University of Florida
  4. College of William and Mary
  5. University of Maryland, College Park

Although Kiplinger reports the total cost of attendance at U-M as $23,794 per year for in-state students, it estimates that residents, on average, end up paying $11,606 per year after factoring in aid. The average cost for out-of-state students is $37,734, less than the sticker price of $49,922.

According to U-M figures, nearly 70 percent of residents and 50 percent of out-of-state graduates receive some level of financial aid. In 2011-12, roughly $188 million in aid was distributed to undergraduates. Of that, $50 million came from government sources and $138 million was awarded by the university.

This year's 6,171-student freshman class is composed 57.4 percent of Michigan residents and 42.6 percent from out-of-state, marking the largest non-resident enrollment level of recent history.

The average student loan debt among U-M graduates is $27,644, according to Kiplinger.

U-M's ranking on the list has risen over time. In 2010 the school was ranked 19th on the list for in-state students and 24th on the list for out-of-state students (although in 2011 U-M ranked 22nd for resident students).

Michigan State University ranked 46th on the list. Although the in-state cost of attendance at MSU is $1,600 less than the sticker price of U-M, resident students at U-M actually end up paying $1,900 less, on average, than at MSU after need-based aid is factored in.

Even once need-based aid is factored in, U-M is the most expensive public college for out-of-staters, according to the Kiplinger ranking.

U-M has the 14th highest average debt burden of the 100 ranked schools.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

The Theory of Knowledge : Being a student of Biology, I need to respond to the comment posted by Macabre Sunset. Biologically, coherent writing is of utmost value for purposes of survival. Biological information which is often described as genetic code is written in the language of molecules which are connected and placed together in a proper sequence. Every structure, and every function of this complex, multicellular, human organism depends upon the correct sequence and transcription of this information. We have over 1,000 known errors of metabolism, and a variety of birth defects that are linked to precise transmission of information. This is Knowledge that is "INNATE" to the organism. The Knowledge that is "ACQUIRED" is represented by the degree or diploma issued by the University. I study human subjects. There are several students and others with University degrees who had put an end to their own existence while they had lived with bodies with nearly perfect Innate Knowledge. It reflects upon the 'Value' of our University education.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 1:47 a.m.

I don't understand the methodology of this report. I think a better comparison would be cost of education vs. post grad income. Isn't the point of going to college to earn a better income? Maybe I am too ignorant to understand the term 'value'.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

The issue of whether a UM degree is worth the price depends on the major and flexibility after graduation. If grads are willing to move for good jobs in other parts of the country with great job opportunities, and if their field is in demand, then perhaps spending 100,000 for 4 years for an in-state student might be worth it. If students want to stick around this area with fewer opportunities and lower salaries than the coasts, for example, then no, I don't think it makes sense to pay that much for a UM degree. You are buying a high quality degree, but it won't help grads that much unless they are in highly competitive fields that "pay" grads for that kind of credential (business, finance, engineering, etc). Another factor is that many other great universities allow students to pay in-state tuition after their first year. UM does not. So, students can often do better at many great out of state schools and spend less overall for 4 years.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 10:55 p.m.

@mike,I agree. It used to be that a college education was a one-way ticket to the "good life", i.e., a decent-paying job, house complete w/white picket fence, etc. However, as I see more and more college grads working at those pizza places because their @** is so in hock that they'll take ANY job in this economy, I am seriously questioning the importance of going to college at all. that diploma doesn't guarantee you a job.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

Who you know is most often more important than what you know...............and a lot cheaper.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 8:31 p.m.

at the expense of other colleges and universities in the state. The suck up nearly every drop of government research dollars. Then whine to the state THEY need more state educational funding.


Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 1:13 a.m.

The UM faculty are the ones that suck up the research dollars. UM gets about 50% of each grant for overhead, the building, heat, electrical, etc. Most grants are competitive and go to the researcher the funder thinks will do the best job. This is the reason that faculty members who are the tops in their fields and consistantly land grants, get paid big money.

Evan Smith

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

The research dollars are used exclusively for research. It would be illegal for U-M to spend this money on anything other than research. Educational funds have to come elsewhere.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

As always, it's a good value *for some people.* I know plenty of graduates on whom a University of Michigan education was totally wasted.

Evan Smith

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 9:47 p.m.

Yes, but this is true with every university.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 6:24 p.m.

VALUE OF EDUCATION vs THE COSTS OF LEARNING: This rating has a flaw as it does not relate the value of education to a primary purpose called human existence. Human organism begins its existence with genetic, and biological information implanted in its substance and the quality of existence depends upon this knowledge and information that is implanted without the need for acquiring the same from exposure to learning called 'education'. We have to compare the costs of learning with the purpose in life to estimate its value or lack of value.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

You could easily add "learning to write coherent sentences" to that rant. Biologically, coherent writing carries no survival advantage.

say it plain

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:43 p.m.

I think it's rather shameful as a reflection of the UM that it has such a high debt burden for its grads whilst it has one of the largest endowments of any university in the world. *That* relationship among numbers could serve as an index of *some* characteristic, non?! There are many instances in these ratings schemes of universities rated as having high costs but who give lots of non-loan aid and included in the explanation for this is "their huge endowment". I challenge to offer journalistic insight into how and why UM maintains such a hefty endowment but such a high debt burden for their students.

say it plain

Fri, Jan 4, 2013 : 5:43 a.m.

Ah, thank you for that information @Evan Smith, that's interesting. I haven't looked at historical data on the debt burden for UM students versus comparable institutions, but it makes me wonder about how the relative proportions of various components of total endowment have changed over time, or not. I'd also guess that the specifics of 'donor stipulations' regarding their donations can be affected by administration/staff as they are collected, if you know what i mean. Are most donations really offered out of the blue and completely inflexible on purpose? Or are giving campaigns orchestrated and large-scale donations sort of massaged into being?

Evan Smith

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

The allocation of the endowment at Michigan is not chosen by the regents or any of the executive officers, but instead it is chosen by the alumni or donors that contributed those funds. A very large amount of the endowment is specifically for research, and another huge portion is specifically for the U-M Hospital. Over 1.4 Billion dollars is allocated for need based scholarships, and this is one of the main reasons why it is cheaper for a resident to attend U-M than MSU. While it might be nice for the proportions of the endowment to change to favoring more financial aid, the university cannot legally do so without the donors permission.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

You are free to obtain your degree elsewhere.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

We have a lot of administrators and academic wonks masquerading as "teachers" to support here.

say it plain

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:47 p.m.

Seriously @Tim Hornton, look at the longer list that includes not only the top 10 on Kiplinger's good value list, but the next 90. See UM debt's average compared to schools of comparable costs. It looks to be like 20% higher on my initial quick scan. If Kiplinger's ratings seriously took account of debt-burden in their rankings algorithm, that surely took UM down a couple notches. Now that debt is finally being questioned by the little people and the media that purports to inform them (you know, that basic democracy scene, lately much obfuscated by the media's new business model), leaving students in so much debt should *seriously* demote a university in "value" ratings, no? And why is this coming from a university that has a top-ten level endowment? The numbers to me stick out like a nasty big sore thumb, and I presume their way of 'dealing with it' has been to hire social-media coordinators to make sure this kind of thing isn't terribly prominent in the 'branding' ether.

say it plain

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

I guess I ask for insight into how other universities with large endowments are cited as keeping the debt-burden *down* for their students while UM does not. How do these other institutions manage to violate these 'circle of life' relationships?! Do they have stronger alumni giving? That would be interesting. Do they have stronger endowment management to keep their nest-eggs growing more reliably and faster? That would be interesting. Do they spend lots less on overhead? That would be interesting. Or is it just that UM should be ranked in the very tip-top for greedy lack of concern about their students' lives, building that endowment on their backs?

Tim Hornton

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

Why do you need "insight". High costs = high debt burden on students. Hefty costs also = hefty endowment. Some refer to this as the circle of life.

Tim Hornton

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

It depends on the type of degree and often the graduate school (or med and law school afterward), getting a degree in English, general studies, women's studies, or any other type of social science or liberal arts degree will give you no advantage in getting a job with the great and mighty "UM" attached to that diploma. That being said you will have a really fun time in school in Ann Arbor and you won't have to be called a Wal-Mart Wolverine by MSU grads. You will however be called a Student Loan Debt Wolverine for a long period of time just like those Student Loan Debt Spartans. But hey, you only live once so you might as well rock on the debt and party hard for the prestige.

Tim Hornton

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

Sorry to burst your bubble Mr. Alum and Resident but I work with many graduates from UM, State, and other schools. All that was needed to initially start was B.S. degree in the social sciences and it didn't matter from where. I don't see the UM grads getting promoted at any faster rates than even some of the Baker graduates. I will say the MSU grads have the largest group self-importants followed by the UM grads. In fact now that I think about it some of the UM grads were socially kind of weird. GO BLUE!

Mich Res and Alum

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:09 p.m.

It's better to get an English degree from UM than from, oh I don't know, Northeastern State U or Pinnacle Online University. The fact is, if you go into the humanities, you better work your butt off because there are very few jobs that make your decision worth financial sense. That doesn't mean there aren't other benefits as well (more than "having fun" at college. I had plenty of fun as a math major). Whatever major you choose, if you work hard, make connections and good impressions, UM will give you a massive advantage over many, many others. Since graduating, every job offer I have received was due in part to the deserved reputation of my department at Michigan. That got me in the door. My hard work and interviews got me offers. And yes, I have racked up 70k+ in student loans to get my two degrees from UM. I've paid off 12k+ in a year and a half. That's a pretty damn good investment by the US in me, I think.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:28 p.m.

And the price just keeps going up and up. Much faster than any inflation. Nice that the people who run it can join the rich.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:24 p.m.

Good to see the entitlement generation chiming in so quickly. How 'bout a "1%" whine just for old time's sake?

Dog Guy

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

The value of real estate, a kiss, or a diploma is based on three factors: location, location, location. I have found my U of M degrees quite valuable, but the high moral standards, broad vision, and severe duty which U of M professors inculcated have since cost me a lot of work and money. The past half-century has seen the economic value of a U of M diploma rise sharply even as the worth of a U of M education has plummeted.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Professors didn't always do your parents' work for them. I don't know when you received your diploma, but mine isn't that old and I found my professors, even in liberal arts classes, stuck to teaching the subject matter and not morals or politics.

Steven Murphy

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2 p.m.

I look forward to the day when one can walk over to a vending machine and drop in a quarter and get a Ph.D.'s worth of math or World History or Chemistry ... from a tablet, as then those of us with learning disabilities won't feel so left out in this ever expanding world of learn-id people.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

Ummmm, sure. I was just thinking that too. Really, I was.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:46 p.m.

It's absurd to talk about "good value" when we're talking these absolutely insane costs. When students graduate with such high debt, it's a drag on the economy, even if they get jobs that pay a decent salary.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

I think you missed the point. The figure of $27,000 in debt includes both in state and out state students. The payments are less than the payments on the average new car loan. The payoff to the economy of a well educated workforce with earning power is significant.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

I personally know two garduates, one from U of M and the other from MSU. Both have in excess of $50,000 in debt, one is working at a pizza place, the other is working for $35K per year. The professors and administartors are all doing quite well though....................

Nicholas Urfe

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

I expected that the garduates were working as security gards.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:42 p.m.

Wow. Two "garduates" of schools that have hundreds of thousands of living graduates. That certainly establishes a trend. Or maybe you just have the wrong friends?