Advertisement
College Rankings

How We Ranked the Top Public Colleges

To come up with our best values for 2014, we start with data on nearly 600 public four-year schools provided by Peterson’s, then add our own reporting.

The Formula:

45% Cost Factors | 55% Quality Factors

To come up with our best values for 2014, we start with data on nearly 600 public four-year schools provided by Peterson’s, then add our own reporting. We narrow the list based on measures of academic quality. We then rank each school based on cost measures and financial aid. Cost accounts for 45%, and quality accounts for 55%.

Cost and Financial Aid: 35%

To evaluate costs, we look at tuition, fees, room and board, and books. We give the most points to schools with the lowest in-state total cost and equal points to schools that reduce the price through grants (shown in our rankings as cost after need-based aid) and those that reduce the price through non-need-based aid. We reward schools with the highest percentage of need met, and we give points up to the same maximum to schools based on the percentage of students without need who receive non-need-based aid. We calculate out-of-state cost separately and use the same criteria to assign an out-of-state rank.

Student Indebtedness: 10%

Schools that keep down average debt at graduation deserve extra points, and we reward them accordingly. We also factor in the percentage of students who borrow. The lower the number, the better the score.

Competitiveness: 22.5%

In this category, we include admission rate (the percentage of applicants offered admission) and yield (the percentage of students who enroll out of those admitted). The first number demonstrates the selectivity of the school, and the second shows its ability to compete with other schools for accepted applicants. We also consider the percentage of incoming freshmen who are high scorers on SAT or ACT, because high achievers enhance the academic atmosphere.

Graduation Rates: 18.75%

Our rankings give maximum weight to the four-year graduation rate to reward colleges that help students get undergraduate degrees on time and within budget. We also give points—albeit half as many—to colleges with a strong showing of students who collect their degrees in six years.

Academic Support: 13.75%

Freshman retention rate is the percentage of students who return for their sophomore year, an indication of how successful the college is in keeping them on track. Students per faculty measures whether the college has the personnel to fulfill its academic mission.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Our rankings focus on traditional four-year schools with broad-based curricula. Schools that offer great value but focus on special or narrow academic programs, such as the military service academies, are excluded. Cornell University, best known as a member of the Ivy League, is another exception. Four of Cornell’s colleges are part of the privately endowed university, which we consider a private institution. But three of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges are land-grant state schools that cost much less—about $29,000 a year for tuition and fees in-state.

Jonny Jaldin helped compile this data.

Advertisement

Most Popular

HSAs Get Even Better
Financial Planning

HSAs Get Even Better

Workers have more options with flexible spending accounts, too.
July 2, 2020
2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays
Markets

2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays

Is the market open today? Take a look at which holidays the stock markets and bond markets take off in 2020.
July 1, 2020
Find a Great Place to Retire
happy retirement

Find a Great Place to Retire

Our cities provide plenty of space to spread out without skimping on health care or other amenities.
July 2, 2020

Recommended

7 Ways the Pandemic Will Change College Forever
college

7 Ways the Pandemic Will Change College Forever

Colleges and universities face steep budget cuts, enrollment challenges and new types of competition as a result of COVID-19. We cover the changes you…
June 19, 2020
How to Fund a Memorial Scholarship to Honor a Veteran
college

How to Fund a Memorial Scholarship to Honor a Veteran

With the help of a college or community foundation, you can establish a scholarship in the name of a loved one to help students in perpetuity.
May 24, 2020
How to Endow a Scholarship to Honor a Veteran
college

How to Endow a Scholarship to Honor a Veteran

You may be able to set up a scholarship fund through a college or community foundation, or support educational programs through a charity that special…
May 24, 2020
Gifts for Grads to Build Good Money Habits
college

Gifts for Grads to Build Good Money Habits

Today’s graduates aren’t destined to share the same fate as past generations, so it’s important for them to ramp up their money skills.
May 13, 2020