College and Program Ranking Methodology

College and Program Ranking Methodology

We know that choosing a college isn’t always easy – many factors go into finding the perfect fit. Our ranking methodology is based on a variety of factors to help create a comprehensive overview of the top colleges in the world.

That said, we also know that transparency is key. We don’t want you to have to wonder whether the information in our rankings is biased or subjective in any way. We don’t make our recommendations based on financial incentives or opinions. Schools have to have amazing programs in order to make our final cut!

Our methodology is grounded in solid statistical data and guiding principles that rank schools based on academic quality, affordability, and student satisfaction. We look at data from organizations such as the National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. News & World Report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and others.

Our goal is to create an objective guide that is based on academic outcomes and the breadth and depth of learning opportunities.

Here’s how we compiled our rankings:

  • Accreditation: Each school on our list must be an accredited public or private institution with recognition from authorities like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Council for Higher Education, and the Higher Learning Commission. By selecting only accredited schools, we can ensure that all the schools on our list maintain a certain level of educational standards.
  • Selectivity, Admissions, and Retention Rates: How many students apply and are accepted? What are the full-time retention rates and graduation rates? These factors, especially when viewed in combination with one another, reveal a lot about a school’s quality of education.
  • Affordability: To get an idea of affordability, we look at the average net price as well as the percentage of enrolled students who are taking federal loans. We look at the loan default rate as well as available financial aid like scholarships, grants, and work-study.
  • Academic Reputation: We look at the rank of the school or its parent institution based on rankings from top organizations like the S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review.
  • Accessibility: How easily can this program be applied toward later degrees (ie, applying bachelor’s degree credits toward a master’s)? What percentage of classes are available online versus on campus? Can classes be taken in any sequence or as part of a cohort?
  • Earnings Potential: We look at information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale, and others to get an idea of a degree’s potential outcomes.

Other ranking factors:

Specialty information: Some of our rankings look at if the program is ‘easiest’ or ‘most affordable.’ In these cases, we look at publicly available data and try to add the programs that we determine best fit these metrics. For ‘easiest’ programs, we will look at admissions criteria, tuition cost, if the program is online, and other factors such as location or time to completion. For ‘most affordable’ we simply look at tuition and job prospects post-graduation.

Our expertise: With thousands upon thousands of degree programs to choose from, we try our best to analyze as many as we can. Of course, we may miss out on a great program! So, if you see a ranking where you feel a certain program is missing, please let us know. We have worked in the higher education industry for almost 20 years across a variety of specialties in admissions and marketing, so we have a very good idea of what to look for in a good school.

We specialize in the adult learner so many of our rankings are geared toward that student.

While we do have a relationship with some higher education partners, we do not let that influence our overall ranking.

We also do not accept payment or submissions from any school. These rankings are strictly the analysis and opinion of the editorial staff at College Educated!