UW-Eau Claire cheapest school on annual MONEY magazine ranking

College among two lists of Best College and Best Public College

More stories from Elizabeth Gosling

Looking for the right college poses challenges. Which university has the best sports teams, the best programs or the best food? Much of this depends on who you ask, but one criteria that’s relevant for everyone is affordability.

Money magazine ranked the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire as the 100th school on the Best Colleges list out of 705 nationally, and 41st among the “Top 50 Public Colleges.”

Money magazine is a nationally recognized publication that looks at the value of different entities and analyzes the positives and negatives of different domains.

While conducting the analysis, the magazine considered metrics including graduation rates, education quality and affordability. They used this information to grade the performance and overall value of four-year institutions.

Under the graduation category, Money looked at the success of a given class in terms of their salaries once they entered the workforce.

Another criteria examined by the publication was “job meaning.” This serves as a indication of whether graduates believe their work makes the world a better place or if they bear a positive view of their occupation.

Money ranked UW-Eau Claire as the cheapest on its “50 Best Public Colleges” list. According to Money, taking Wisconsin or Minnesota tuition, books, travel, room and board and miscellaneous costs into consideration in this ranking. Among the universities cited, annual costs ranged from $19,800 to $36,200 without financial aid.

Dean of Students Joseph Abhold said the ranking looks highly upon the university.

“It reflects that students are getting a lot of value for their money,” Abhold said, “that they are getting a large number of high-impact educational experiences.”

Studying abroad, internships and research activities fall under the umbrella term “high-impact experiences,” and most UW-Eau Claire students do one or more during the course of their secondary education.

“It strengthens their sense of pride and commitment to the university,” Abhold said.

However, there is always room for improvement. Abhold said he wishes to see the university improve the four-year graduation rate.

Opportunity cost demonstrates the benefit of graduating in four years. When students take longer than four years, their opportunity cost increases because they are not working. For Eau Claire students, the graduation rate is 68 percent, according to Money.

Michael Carney, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, noted the four-year graduation rate is increasing, but there is more work to be done.

“(Our four-year graduation rate) was quite low, it is now what I would consider to be respectable,” Carney said. “It is not as high as we want it to be.”

The recent budget cuts also impact this recognition. Carney said the new changes to the university do not affect the high-quality education offered.

“We’ve figured out a way to keep the cost low and the quality high,” Carney said.

In the UW System, Eau Claire and UW-Madison were the two universities recognized on the lists.

Heather Kretz, director of admissions, said this ranking can help with recruitment.

“Eau Claire has always had the reputation of being affordable and high-value,” Kretz said.

Yearly, the university receives recognition from publications as diverse as the Princeton Review, US News and World Report and Payscale.com.

“I think most important though, is the experience that students have here,” Kretz said. “No ranking can really replace that.”

“I feel extremely comfortable here and confident in our school’s ability to help in the future with jobs,” said Kinzey Stoll, a senior geology student, who spoke positively of her experience at Eau Claire and expressed confidence moving forward once she leaves the university to find employment in the job market.