OSU keeps climbing in 'best buy' college guide

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon State University is the lone Oregon institution to make the annual Fiske Guide to the best buys of U.S. colleges and universities this year.

OSU keeps climbing up in the guide, while former regular, the University of Oregon, has been left off again, The Eugene Register-Guard reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/RPT2we).

Until 2005, the UO made the 40-school best-buy list annually for eight years in a row — perpetually honored as a high value university among the 2,200 four-year institutions in the nation.

The best-buy calculation is based on the quality of academics in relation to the cost of attendance. Edward Fiske, a former education editor at The New York Times, is the guide's author.

"It's not a question of what's cheapest," he said. "It's what's offering the best quality in relation to the cost."

This year, the UO tuition probably ticked up just enough that it was bested by other schools in the calculation, Fiske said.

From 2001 to fall 2012, UO tuition and fees increased 129 percent — landing at $9,309 a year, according to Oregon University System figures.

"Affordability for students is very important to us," Jim Brooks, UO financial aid director, said in an email, "and the university aims to keep tuition increases as low as possible despite the reductions in state support over the past several years. We also work very diligently to find opportunities to provide financial aid and scholarships to assist students and their families with affordability."

Rapidly increasing tuition costs are a common story throughout the country, even at public universities, to the extent that the trend is pricing out the populace, Fiske said.

"That's a huge issue," he said. "The flagship publics, in a lot of states, are the equivalent of the privates."

The UO is still listed, though precariously, on the top 100 Best Values in Public Colleges by Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. It's 97 on the list, down from 89 the previous year.

New UO President Michael Gottfredson repeatedly has said access and quality are his chief concerns.

OSU, meanwhile, is on the ascent. It's gets an "inexpensive" price rating and a "solid" academic rating from Fiske.

"It is an honor to be there, and it confirms what we've always believed: that we provide a great academic experience at a relatively modest price," said OSU Admissions Director Noah Buckley.

A typo in the 2013 Fiske Guide left off one of the star-like symbols that OSU is entitled to; it has two in the book, but it should have three — placing it in the top 10 percent of colleges and universities nationally, Fiske said. (UO has 3½ of the symbols.)

The Corvallis-based university has been able to somewhat moderate its price increases between 2001 and the price this fall: Tuition and fees are up 105 percent, with the price of a four-year degree at $8,183 for the coming school year.

Buckley said the university strives to keep tuition low enough so that Oregonians have a shot at attending.

"It's rooted in our mission," he said. "OSU is the state's land grant institution, so access is part of our mission. We try not to put it all on student's backs."

Land grant means that OSU initially was created and funded through the sale of federal land for the purpose of creating colleges to teach practical courses in agriculture, science and engineering to the common citizenry.

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