College Rankings

FAQs on Our Rankings of Private College Values

Here are answers to your questions about how we pick the schools on our list.

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Why isn't my school on the list?

Our lists exclude schools that do not meet our criteria for academic quality and affordability. We start with data on more than 600 private institutions and sort the schools first based on quality measures, such as the admission rate, the test scores of incoming freshmen, and four- and five-year graduation rates. We then add cost data, including tuition, fees, room and board and financial aid, and re-rank the institutions accordingly. It is this combination of quality and affordability -- certainly not any desire on our part to exclude a particular school or state -- that determines which schools make our lists for best value.

Why don't any schools from my state appear on the list?

In some states, no private college or university meets our criteria for quality and affordability.

Why do you divide the rankings into two lists?

To better compare apples to apples, we group the institutions into two categories. One ranks liberal arts colleges, which focus on undergraduate education, and the other ranks private universities, which include graduate students.

Why is Washington and Lee University designated as a liberal arts college if it has “University” in its name?

We rely on the Carnegie Classification system, which defines liberal arts colleges as those that primarily offer bachelor of arts degrees and private universities as schools that award a greater number of master’s degrees and PhDs. We exclude specialized schools, such as teachers colleges, schools of law and schools of medicine from our rankings.

Do the costs listed in the tables reflect one academic year or all four years of undergraduate education?

The costs reflect the amount each institution charges and the average amount of financial aid each institution offers for one academic year. The rankings also reflect the average debt student borrowers accrue as undergraduates.

I don't see Truman State University, which is a terrific school at a great price, on either list. How come?

Our private school rankings are just that -- they consider only private colleges and universities. We have separate rankings for best values in public colleges and universities (in which Truman State is ranked 19 for 2013). Look for the 2014 rankings for best values in public colleges in Kiplinger's February 2014 issue.

I've read that college rankings are based on subjective opinions, not hard data. Is that true?

Unlike other college rankings, ours are based on measurable criteria, such as student-faculty ratios, admission rates, on-time graduation rate, sticker price and financial aid. Neither our opinion nor anyone else's affects the calculation.

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