The Princeton Review has included the University of Richmond on its list of the 50 best-value private colleges in the nation.

According to a USA Today article about the list, the selection criteria included more than 30 factors in three areas: academics, costs and financial aid.

"It's wonderful to be regarded as a best value, particularly during weak economic times," said Gil Villanueva, the assistant vice president and dean of the Office of Undergraduate Admission. "It affords prospective students and families some gauge in understanding how we stand apart from the 3,700 other colleges and universities in America.

"Let's look around our campus. It screams value. When families dig deeper, and they will, they realize Richmond does an excellent job in preparing women and men for leadership roles in society. Yes, we offer generous financial aid. We meet 100 percent of demonstrated need. We have merit scholarships. But in the end, our success is measured by our alumni's success. And our alumni, since the dawn of time, have been very successful."

It is important for the admissions office to understand students' level of satisfaction across the board, Villanueva said. Admissions officers need to know about what is happening on campus, because prospective students and their parents are savvy and will realize if officers do not know about life on campus, he said. The admissions office partners with various offices - such as the communications department, the academic deans, the president's office and the alumni office - in order to keep informed about what is going on.

It appears that students are getting more at Richmond than at a typical liberal arts school, Villanueva said. The student-to-faculty ratio is 8-1 and when families come to campus, they are seeing buildings being erected despite a downturn in the economy.

"One reason I joined the UR community is the fact that the institution has the resources to live up to the claim of being a private university for the public good," he said.

Last year the university enrolled more students who were the first generation in their families to attend college, and more students from low-income families. One out of five students in the class of 2013 is the first in his or her family to attend college, and 68 percent of those first-generation students are from white families, Villanueva said.

"It blows certain stereotypes out the door," Villanueva said. "We're taking care of the underdogs here at Richmond. During weak economic periods, families will look for the best deals. It is apparent, since we're ranked by no less than four independent agencies, that we are a best value."

Richmond has been named a best-value college by US News & World Report, SmartMoney, Kiplinger's Personal Finance and USA Today-Princeton Review.

Applications for the class of 2014 are up 9 percent from last year, which might indicate the realization of Richmond's value.

People have to understand that the sticker price for Richmond may seem daunting, but they have to peel back the layers and look at how the institution is making attendance affordable for students, Villanueva said, because Richmond has a strong record of being affordable for families that demonstrate need.

The Princeton Review's "bottom line" description of Richmond says, "The total cost for tuition, room and board, and everything else exceeds $50,000 per year at the University of Richmond. At the same time, the average financial aid award is nearly $35,000 a year. Need-based financial aid and large scholarships are profuse."

The goal of Richmond's Financial Aid Office has been to make the school affordable for students so they can graduate with a good education regardless of their financial background.

Financial Aid Director Cindy Deffenbaugh said she hoped the rating would cause students who would not otherwise consider Richmond to take a look at the school.

Need-based students received $65 million in aid this year, and $60 million of that was from the university itself, she said.

Richmond is one of a few schools that has both a need-blind admissions process and a financial aid program that awards 100 percent of demonstrated need.

"The combination of the two is very powerful," Deffenbaugh said.

It is the goal of the Financial Aid Office to keep this amount of assistance in the future, despite the current economy.

Contact staff writer Ashley Graham at ashley.graham@richmond.edu.

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