Four Maine colleges make Washington Monthly’s ‘Best Bang for the Buck’ list

University of Maine students march from the Memorial Gym Field House to Alfond Arena, site of their commencement, at the University of Maine in Orono.
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University of Maine students march from the Memorial Gym Field House to Alfond Arena, site of their commencement, at the University of Maine in Orono. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 25, 2014, at 3:42 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 26, 2014, at 9:07 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Despite college tuition rates that put Mainers in debt at high rates compared with the rest of the country, four Maine colleges made Washington Monthly’s “Best Bang for the Buck” list. The list recognizes institutions “in America that do the best job of helping non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices,” the magazine’s editors said.

The magazine evaluated about 1,700 colleges and universities and selected 349 to highlight based on criteria that reward schools that do well with students from lower-income families.

The University of Maine ranked 132nd, the University of Maine in Farmington ranked 184th, Maine Maritime Academy ranked 232nd and College of the Atlantic ranked 240th.

This list is one of many that seeks to rate colleges. Each media outlet that creates a list chooses its own criteria to determine what it means to be a successful college and as a result, each have different schools at the top.

Washington Monthly’s list seeks to put a spotlight on schools that do not cater to affluent students and ranks them based on affordability.

To make the “Bang for the Buck” list at least 20 percent of students have to receive Pell grants, which are typically awarded to families that make less than $50,000 per year; the graduation rate must be higher than 50 percent and it must meet or exceed the rate that would be expected given the student population; and finally, the student loan default rate must be 10 percent or less, Washington Monthly explained.

The magazine then placed in order the 349 schools that fit its criteria based on the total price of attendance from lowest to highest.

After nearly two decades of steadily increasing tuition rates, the University of Maine System’s board of trustees froze tuition for in-state students for a two-year period in 2013. This year will be the last that tuition must remain steady.

According to Washington Monthly, families that make up to $75,000 per year pay an average of $14,404 at UMaine, $16,427 at UMF, $17,613 at Maine Maritime Academy and $18,112 at College of the Atlantic.

The top three schools on the list are City University of New York campuses: CUNY Brooklyn College, CUNY Queens College and CUNY Baruch College. Those schools are well known for graduating many first-generation students, Washington Monthly reported.

At the bottom of the list is the American Jewish University in California, which costs families an average of $40,966.

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