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 - 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
Advertisement

Most Popular

Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits
Coronavirus and Your Money

Turning 60 in 2020? Expect Lower Social Security Benefits

When you file for Social Security, the amount you receive may be lower.
July 30, 2020
These 2 Words Could Send Your Retirement Money to the Wrong Beneficiary
estate planning

These 2 Words Could Send Your Retirement Money to the Wrong Beneficiary

"Per stirpes" vs. "per capita." Making the wrong choice could cause an estate planning disaster.
July 30, 2020
Second Stimulus Check Update: HEALS Act vs. CARES Act
taxes

Second Stimulus Check Update: HEALS Act vs. CARES Act

When compared to first-round payments, the new Republican stimulus check proposal expands and protects payments for some people, but it shuts the door…
July 29, 2020

Recommended

College During COVID
Paying for College

College During COVID

Students and their families must be ready to adapt to the changes in the way they attend—and possibly pay for—college.
July 30, 2020
How COVID-19 Is Changing the Way Families Save for College Costs
college

How COVID-19 Is Changing the Way Families Save for College Costs

CollegeFinance.com's Kevin Walker joins our Your Money's Worth podcast to discuss how the global health pandemic is impacting the way families plan a…
July 28, 2020
This Olympian Has a New Goal: Closing the Wealth Gap
Financial Planning

This Olympian Has a New Goal: Closing the Wealth Gap

She encourages advisers to introduce students to financial planning.
July 21, 2020
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