SmartAsset recently released its third annual “Best Value Colleges Study” for the state of Maine. SmartAsset is a website that offers interactive tools which provide financial advice.
The study ranks the University of Maine Orono at first place, followed by Colby College, Bates College, UMaine at Augusta, UMaine at Farmington, University of New England and the University of Southern Maine. UMaine finished second behind Colby College in the previous two studies.
The study ranks the “best” schools in each state based on five factors: average scholarship and grant money per recipient, average starting salary of graduates, college tuition, student living costs and student retention rates. The study weighs the factors so that starting salary has the most influence over the results.
The numbers given are sourced from the “2015 National Center for Educational Statistics, 2014 College InSight and 2017 Payscale.” The former two are databases for university information and the latter is a paid access “salary profile database.”
The data for tuition was picked from the “National Center for Educational Statistics and College InSight” and is frequently at odds with the tuition prices listed in the Schools’ catalogs and common data sets from corresponding years. The study mostly sticks to data from the 2014-2015 school year.
The University of New England’s tuition is listed as $34,080 in the study. The number matches the NCES tuition data, but the UNE 2014 – 2015 catalog listed tuition at $33,880 and the 2013 – 2014 catalog had tuition at $31,980.
Tuition for USM was listed at $7,796, which matches the “National Center for Educational Statistics” numbers for the academic years 2013 through 2016. The USM common data sets list the tuition at $7,590.
Bates offered a comprehensive fee of $62,770 that covered tuition and cost of living, according to the 2014 – 2015 common data set. The number listed on SmartAsset’s Student living costs for Bates College are equivalent to College InSight’s cost of living data, a 2013-2014 statistic. The SmartAsset tuition number is equivalent to The National Center for Educational Statistics 2014 to 2015 tuition data. The use of two different years for the data may explain why the sum of the study’s tuition and cost of living figures does not match the comprehensive fee listed in the data set.
The NCES 2014-2015 stats broke the comprehensive fee down into tuition and cost of living, but when added up the numbers still reflected the comprehensive fees listed in the school’s official data set.
A similar problem arises in the difference between colleges that charge by semester and those that charge by credit hour. The tuition prices listed on SmartAsset’s study would have bought more credits at some schools and less at others.
UMA charges by credit hour. The UMA common data set for 2013-2014 says the cost per credit hour that year was $217. UMA tuition is listed in SmartAsset’s study as $7,500 a year, reflecting the College InSight 2013 to 2014 data. That $7,500 would have bought a student 34 credits.
The study stuck to NCES 2014 to 2015 numbers for the cost of living component with the exception of one school. The University of Maine Augusta cost of living is $1,200 in the study. UMA’s catalog says “The estimated cost for books and supplies…is approximately $2,500.” This is likely because UMA is a commuter school. However, the NCES provides an off-campus estimate at $12,000 for the 2013 to 2014 year.