Virginia Tech ranks in the top 20 public colleges and universities nationally of all colleges that offer a first class educational experience at a bargain price, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.

The Kiplinger 100: Best Values in Public Colleges list, released today, ranks Virginia Tech twentieth among 100 institutions where students can receive "a stellar education without graduating with a mountain of debt," according to the publication's editors. The top 100 colleges were identified from a pool of over 500 public four-year colleges and universities, and were ranked according to academic quality, cost, and financial aid opportunities.

Although three other Virginia universities also made the top 20 list, including the University of Virginia, College of William and Mary, and James Madison University, Virginia Tech remains the lowest-cost public university in Virginia. Of the 15 four-year public colleges and universities in the state, Virginia Tech has the lowest overall cost to attend (tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board).

The announcement noted that public schools come with a manageable average tuition bill of $5,491 per year compared to the average of $21,235 for private colleges. The report surmises that "by offering great financial aid packages and free rides to students who achieve high SAT scores and high school grade point averages, public colleges are luring top talent away from pricier schools."

In order to ensure access for all who qualify, Virginia Tech has begun a program to steadily increase financial aid. Beginning in the 2006-07 academic year, the university will increase its level of institutional funding for financial aid provided to undergraduate students from low- to moderate-income families. An innovative financial aid program, "Funds for the Future," will protect these students from tuition and mandatory fee increases during their four years at the university. In addition to tuition- and fee-increase protection, qualifying students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will be considered for additional grant assistance from Virginia Tech's Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.

Topping the "Best Values" list is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which, as the only school to meet 100 percent of students' financial needs, has consistently captured first place in each of the previous Kiplinger surveys.