Our advanced ranking algorithm is designed to help you choose the best possible school for your investment of time and money.
Choosing a school is difficult. At the end of the day, we know you are looking to maximize your investment of both time and money into education that will help you succeed. When ranking an institution, many systems weigh heavily some factors over others that may or may not be important to you. Rather than rely on more subjective data such as peer evaluations and surveys, our sophisticated rankings our based on precise information reported directly to the National Center for Education Statistics and compiled into factors such as:
- Value per dollar of tuition - Just because a school is expensive doesn't always mean it will give you a high-quality education. In fact, many state schools that provide reduced-rate tuition for in-state residents report better numbers (graduation rates, program offerings, etc...) than expensive private colleges. Our ranking factor here is actually split into tuition weighted against multiple factors such as student-to-faculty ratios and current enrollment statistics.
- Student-to-faculty ratios - Schools can make direct decisions about how many students to pack into classrooms and how many teachers to hire. While many ranking algorithms put this as a high determining factor, we have weighted this relatively lower because the value of education with regard to small class sizes is complex. For example, a great teacher with 25 students will provide significantly better education than a terrible teacher with 10. A school may hire many inexpensive teachers to promote lower ratios, but this should not boost their ranking. Still, in general this is still an important ratio to look for and we have kept it in our ranking algorithm.
- Retention rates - Are students leaving the school after a couple of years? Are they dropping out because it is too hard or frustrating? Or are they flunking out? While the fine details may not be able to be determined from reported retention rates, whichever way you look at it this is a very important metric to consider when ranking a school?
- Graduation rates - More than just the flip side of retention rates, graduation rates of individuals seeking Associate, Bachelor, Master, or Doctorate degrees (as well as earning various certifications) are another important ranking factor for colleges. This includes the duration of time that students take to complete their degree program at various levels.
- Applicant pool ratios - Have the rates of students applying for this school changed? Do a large number of students apply for this school relative to enrollment? It is important to look at these numbers not only to examine your odds of getting into the school, but to give you an idea of both popularity and up-to-date changes the school has made with regard to its applicate pool statistics.
- Admission ratios - While a large number of people may apply and be accepted, a key metric to examine about a school how how many of the accepted students actually say yes and attend the school. For example, many of the nation's top prospective students may apply to a wide variety of schools and be accepted, but a key factor that should boost a school's ranking is the accepted-to-admitted ratio.
- Enrollment numbers - For each grade level as appropriate for the programs offered, are enrollment numbers steady and reasonable? Are transfer students flocking to or from the school? Does the number of students enrolled in graduate and undergraduate programs seem appropriate based on what is offered?
- Program offerings - Is there a rich diversity of programs compared to cost and enrollment numbers? While a school that has relatively few programs should not be ranked less if it is offering a high quality education, those schools that simply add more programs and hire more teachers without maintaining enrollment and graduating more students at various levels should be marked down in the rankings.
- Cost of living - While many ranking systems leave cost of living out of their algorithms, we have decided to include a non-trivial value to it because it contributes significantly to the net cost (i.e. with books, tuition, etc...) and thus should be an important factor when choosing a school.
- Test scores - A school that has students with higher test scores tends to follow many of the important ranking factors described above. However, there are cases (such as many state schools) when other ranking factors are lower but the quality of the students actually enrolling (and staying enrolled) in a school is high. Who your peers are at a school is an important part of education and thus we have included ACT/SAT scores in our ranking algorithm.
Given the factors described above, schools are ranking programmatically and scaled to fit within a range from 0-100. The top 100 schools in the US are listed below.