Our rankings measure academic quality and affordability, with quality accounting for a majority of the total. We started with data on nearly 600 private institutions provided by Peterson's, then added our own reporting. Our list ranks the top 100 universities and liberal-arts colleges in separate tables.
Admission rate is the percentage of applicants offered admission. Four-year graduation rate is the percentage of freshmen who earned a bachelor’s degree within four years. Total cost per year for academic year 2012–13 includes tuition, mandatory fees, room and board, and estimated expenses for books.
Average need-based aid is the average need-based amount for students who were awarded scholarships or grants (loans are excluded). Percentage of non-need-based aid is the percentage of all undergraduates without need who received non-need-based aid.Average debt at graduation is the average amount owed by graduates who took out education loans.
To break ties, we used academic-quality scores and average debt at graduation.
Marc A. Wojno, Kaitlin Pitsker and Jonny Jaldin helped compile this data.