IRVINE (CNS) — When it comes to best bang for the buck in higher education, UC Irvine is tops in the nation, according to rankings released Monday, Aug. 12. by Money magazine.

The publication’s annual Best Colleges ranking of schools that “offer an outstanding education at an affordable price” placed UCI on top, while UCLA placed fifth. UC San Diego placed ninth.

According to the magazine, the rankings are based on more than 19,000 data points, including graduation rates, tuition and alumni salaries, to “identify the colleges that best combine quality and affordability.”

The magazine reviewed 744 colleges nationwide to develop the list.

UCI ranked third last year, but moved up to number one this year, marking the first time a public university has ever topped the list.

“This latest recognition of our national leadership in combining outstanding academics with outstanding value is testament to the concerted efforts of our faculty, staff, students and supporters,” UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said.

“It is our mission and our privilege to ensure that a world-class education is available to talented and ambitious students of all backgrounds and circumstances.”

Other local schools earning spots on the list were UC Riverside, at 12th, Cal State Long Beach at 13th, Caltech at 16th and Cal State Fullerton in a tie for 22nd.

Cal State Northridge ranked 29th on the list.