By Gordon D. Chavis
I routinely hear three things from students -- and their families -- when they visit campus to talk about attending the University of Central Florida.
The first is that our modern, beautiful campus "already feels like home." The second is that UCF offers a personal touch to students more commonly found in much smaller institutions -- even though we are the second-largest university in the nation.
The third topic that students and families talk about is the cost of a college education. When addressing cost, my answer is simple: Consider cost, but also focus on value.
When you focus on value, the benefits of a college degree are clear: A college degree continues to be the most important investment you can make for a successful career and a brighter future.
From 2007 to 2012, during very tough employment times, people with baccalaureate degrees as a group experienced no net loss of jobs. Those who did not attend college, as a group, experienced a 10 percent decline in employment.
And a UCF degree, in particular, is an excellent investment that is affordable and valuable. For example, The Princeton Review, one of America's best-known education services and test-preparation companies, has joined Kiplinger magazine in ranking a UCF education as one of the best academic buys in the nation.
Being a "best buy" has helped 49 percent of our students graduate without any UCF educational debt. Nationally, just 33 percent of students graduate debt-free.
And despite recent tuition increases across the state, Florida universities still have some of the least expensive tuition costs in the nation. The cost of an education at a Florida state university ranks 45th in the nation. This means students have an opportunity to receive an outstanding education at one of the most affordable prices in the country.
Students and their families, however, know there is more to college costs than just tuition. Student fees fund important projects such as computer labs, academic services, recreational facilities and more.
These are services that students expect and also add value to their overall educational experiences. Further, UCF students play a key role in approving fees. Committees equally divided between students and employees annually review most fees, and students hold the tie-breaking vote in most committees.
At an affordable campus that "already feels like home," UCF students learn to succeed in their studies, the workforce and in the community.
Dr. Gordon D. Chavis is the University of Central Florida's associate vice president for Undergraduate Admissions, Student Financial Assistance and Student Outreach programs.