Our Ranking Methodology

Choosing the right school or program can often feel overwhelming, and many students do not know where to start or which factors to consider. Our rankings focus on influential factors to help each student make an informed choice.

These rankings aim to objectively assess a school's overall merit by weighing several critical factors, including academic quality, affordability, and program availability. To determine these factors, we pull data from national databases and plug them into a unique formula created by our team. We break this formula down in the sections below.

By remaining free of editorial influence, our reliable methodology allows us to rank schools based on their substantive qualities. Although our rankings lists are not comprehensive nor inclusive of every school that offers a particular program, they function as a helpful resource for students as they research and compare potential programs.

About Our Data

When collecting information to evaluate schools, we pull from reputable, reliable sources. This includes the most current available datasets from the National Center for Education Statistics. Our data team assesses all the schools included in these datasets and omits any schools missing a significant amount of data to keep our calculations as accurate as possible.

To provide average net prices for schools and graduate salary data, we use the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard. This source provides all of our school return-on-interest information, allowing us to rank institutions effectively based on these numbers.

All of the data we use is publicly available, allowing users to check our numbers against the sources. We pulled the data for our current rankings in December 2020.

A Breakdown of Our Ranking Factors and Subfactors

We provide the detailed table below to remain transparent and provide a more detailed look into our criteria. We break our rankings down by quality, affordability, and online flexibility. The table below shows how we weigh each factor and subfactor toward the rankings.


Subfactors for Academics:

  • Graduation rate
  • Retention rate
  • Student-to-faculty ratio

Subfactors for Affordability:

  • Average net price for students awarded grant or scholarship aid
  • Federal student aid default loan rate
  • Percent of full-time first time undergraduates awarded any financial aid
  • Average amount of grant and scholarship aid awarded
  • Median debt for graduates (six years after entering)

Subfactors for Reputation:

  • Percent admitted total
  • Admissions yield total
  • Mean earnings of graduates six years after enrolling