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Seven Virginia public universities ranked in the top 100 of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine’s annual “Best Values in Public Colleges” 2013 list.

Coming in second for in-state value and topping Virginia’s efforts was the University of Virginia. The state school was narrowly defeated for first by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which bested UVA in having a lower in-state tuition, higher student financial aid and lower student debt. However, UVA hosted a higher four-year graduation rate.

Kiplinger’s assessment of public universities begins with gathering data on more than 500 institutions. Schools are ranked based on academics and affordability. As measures of academics, Kiplinger looks at admission rates, college admission test scores for the incoming freshman class and four-year graduation rates. To measure affordability, Kiplinger looks at the cost of attending a school — including tuition, fees, room and board and financial aid — for students.

While schools like UVA, James Madison University and Virginia Tech were able to climb the ranks this year compared to the last, other state public schools fell in rank, including the University of Mary Washington, Christopher Newport University and Fairfax-based George Mason University.

Mason slipped from spot 50 to 56 this year, a modest drop, which university officials say shows the school’s dedication to remain accessible to students of all backgrounds and income levels.

“We take this report pretty seriously, because we think it’s a responsible effort to let potential students know what values are out there,” Mason Provost Peter Stearns said. Mason’s in-state total cost for the 2012-13 school year was $19,990, which includes tuition, room and board and fees. That cost was about average compared to the other Virginia schools ranking in the top 100 on Kiplinger’s list. Tuition rose by 3.8 percent this year compared with last, Stearns said. The average tuition increase for fall 2012 was 4.5 percent, the lowest increase in a decade, according to a July 2012 report by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

Stearns said Mason could have dropped in rank because of increases in student debt, a concern Mason and other universities nationwide share, he said. Still, Mason’s average undergraduate student debt is below the national average.

Tuition rates for state schools and those nationwide increased during the Great Recession as state funding for higher education was scaled back. SCHEV officials said they attribute the lower rate increase in tuition to the 2012 General Assembly’s vote to increase general fund allocations for higher education by $65 million in fiscal 2013 and $83 million in fiscal 2014.

The 2013 General Assembly currently is in session in Richmond. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has proposed adding $31 million to higher education funding, which he said will help make college more affordable.

For the complete “Best Value” list by Kiplinger, visit www.kiplinger.com.

hhobbs@fairfaxtimes.com