Among public colleges in Virginia and Maryland, three consistently rank in the top 10 in a Kiplinger’s analysis of “best values” in the country: the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, and the University of Maryland at College Park.

A new Kiplinger’s list, published Wednesday, describes U-Va. as the second-best value, behind the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. William and Mary is fourth in the ranking of value for in-state students, and U-Md. seventh.

Nearly every college these days wants to be known as a good value. Declining enrollment and economic worries mean that more prospective students and parents are shopping aggressively for the best deals in higher education. With that in mind, the federal government is planning to rate colleges on various measures of value by 2015.

The Kiplinger’s analysis is one of many from independent sources that sort colleges by value. Even though these analyses factor in objective data on tuition and financial aid, value ranking is an inherently subjective exercise.

In the new Kiplinger’s top 100 public colleges list for in-state students, James Madison University and Virginia Tech rank 22nd and 27th, respectively, not much changed from where they were in years past. St. Mary’s College of Maryland ranks 48th, a slight decline from its position the year before (41st).

Here's the detail on other Virginia and Maryland schools:

The University of Mary Washington ranks 61st, down from 53rd.

Salisbury University ranks 63rd, up from 72nd.

George Mason University ranks 72nd, down from 56th.

Christopher Newport University ranks 84th, up from 87th.

Towson University ranks 86th, down from 84th.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County ranks 88th, down from 78th.