Huffington Post     First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 04:05 PM ET

Given the weak economic landscape and the steep cost of tuition at private universities -- the average total cost of a private university recently hit $35,636 -- paying for a high-quality education can be a greater economic burden than ever before.

But the cost of an great education need not be entirely exorbitant, at least according to Kiplinger's magazine, which this week released its list of the American public colleges that offer the most bang for your buck.

To determine its rankings, Kiplinger's evaluated academic quality and weighed it against the cost of attendance and financial aid. Because the study focused on value, the methodology emphasized academic quality indicators -- including admission rates, SAT and ACT scores, student-to-faculty ratios and graduation rates -- which were accorded twice the weight of affordability.

To assess cost, Kiplinger's considered the total cost of attendance, the total cost after financial aid, the average percent of financial need met with aid and the average amount of student debt at graduation. (The magazine also compiled an interesting list of the colleges that offer the most value to out-of-state students.)

Check out the top eight universities on Kiplinger's list of the best values in public education -- and vote for your favorite -- below, (Also, definitely check out the the full list here.)

#1 The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill clinched the top spot in the Kiplinger list. On average, the university meets 100% of its students' financial need, and UNC-Chapel Hill students graduate with an average debt of $14,936.

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