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UC Davis Edges Stanford as a Best Bang for Your Buck College

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The Student Community Center at UC Davis. Opened in 2012, it achieved LEED platinum certification, the highest rating in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

According to a new study by NerdScholar, UC Davis ranks higher than Stanford University as a college that provides a winning combination of affordability and educational quality.

The study set out to identify the most affordable colleges in California that also held the prestige and high degree of quality that students desire. Affordability was the primary focus of the study since the aim of NerdScholar is to help students make smart and informed financial decisions.

But what is affordability without a confidence that you’ll receive an excellent education? Then again, what is an excellent education without a confidence that you can afford to attend or pay off loans after all is said and done? NerdScholar took both these factors into account and sought to find the colleges that give you the best bang for your buck.

Because prestige and educational viability were important factors, NerdScholar pulled from the top 40 California colleges on Forbes’ America’s Top Colleges list and ranked them according to affordability (50%), quality & prestige (30%), graduation rate (10%), and loan default rate (10%).

While Stanford ranked higher than UC Davis on secondary factors, UC Davis (#6) beat Stanford (#7) because the weight of difference between the overall estimated net price per student ($14, 072 vs. $21,421). Net price included the overall cost of tuition, room & board, transportation, books, and personal expenses per year minus grants and financial aid. 77% of students at UC Davis receive financial aid, and 69% grants. 72% of students at Stanford receive financial aid, and 60% grants.

“With the average student loan rate being almost $30,000 per student for students graduating today, it’s essential that they are looking at these numbers and thinking about their post-graduation debts when they’re applying,” said Danielle Lichliter, NerdScholar Communications Analyst who crunched the numbers, “There’s a lot of different factors that make a college a good place to attend…It’s important to think about the qualitative things, but also the numbers.”

Lichliter pointed out that it takes the average student six years to complete college. So when you multiply, for instance, the $7000+ difference between UC Davis and Stanford, the cost difference of earning a degree really adds up.

“The UC system is a powerhouse in terms of an affordable, quality education,” Lichliter said, “and Davis is one of those…They have a lot of strong programs [and] are focused on green education that can be paired with the affordability factor.”

UC Davis is known for its programs in law, medicine, management, engineering, education, and biological and agricultural sciences. In 2001, it was named a Public Ivy, a public college recognized for its ability to compete with Ivy League colleges in academic rigor, experience, and faculty.

Colleges that ranked higher than Davis include UCLA (#1) and UC Berkeley (#3), both of which had higher across-the-board ratings. It’s interesting to note that Stanford ranked #1 on Forbes’ list so, while it’s considerably more expensive than UC colleges, its prestige is what gave it such a high ranking on a study whose primary focus is affordability.  That’s a factor that Lichliter said might be worth the extra expense to some students.

But the great thing, according to Lichliter, about UC Davis and other UC colleges is that they’re providing a high quality education at a cost students can afford.

“We wanted to provide students a comprehensive list on a state-by-state basis that provides them with the schools that are the most value for them,” said Lichliter. “It helps them narrow down their search, because it can be really overwhelming as a college student.”

To read the full study or to learn more about the financial, educational, and career guidance NerdScholar provides, visit their website at nerdwallet.com.

To read about UC Davis’ national and educational ratings, visit their website at ucdavis.edu.

UC Davis Edges Stanford as a Best Bang for Your Buck College via @sacramentopress

About the author

Bethany Harris

Bethany Harris

Bethany joined Sacramento Press in 2013 and enjoys writing articles that uncover the happenings of the city and the people behind the stories who make them so worth telling. A native of Sacramento, she also loves photography, running, and discovering new places and new things to do--both in the city and throughout California.

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