A. Online College Rankings
Online Colleges by State
B. Campus Based Degree Programs
In compiling our ranking, we have used data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) which is part of the United States Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and College Scorecard.
Among the roles of NCES is to collect, analyze, and publish statistics on education information in the United States. It is widely accepted as a reliable source of education data and comparative information for colleges in the USA.
We considered different factors and metrics from NCES in allocating scores to Universities. We allocated different weights to different metrics depending on what we considered the true measure of each factor’s contribution to college quality and affordability. We compared how a college performed on each factor when compared to all others. We allocated points depending on how the college was rated in comparison to all other colleges. To allocate points Colleges in the top 5% of a positive rank are allocated the highest points. The next highest points are allocated to the next 5%.
We considered the following information in computing our rankings.
- Graduation Rate (15%) – This is widely considered as a clear indicator of a college academic quality. It is the percentage of first time (full-time) students who graduated from the University within six years of starting their degree program. This is an indication of the quality of instruction received at the University and the overall commitment by students to their studies. A High graduation rate is interpreted to mean that students receive the right instructions and guidance to understand the coursework and that they are committed to their studies. There is an indication of a general culture among students to do well in class. Colleges with high graduation rates were allocated a higher index compared to colleges with lower graduation rate. We only considered colleges with graduation rate of 50% and above.
- Cost (9%) – Some rankings are based on college affordability costs. To arrive at this, we have considered the in-state tuition for each college. Colleges with low tuition scored higher than those with higher tuition.
- Acceptance Rate (3%) – This is the percentage of undergraduate students (first-time) admitted to a University in relation to all those who made applications to join the University. This could be taken as a general measure of the University’s popularity or how selective the University is when it comes to determining the quality of students admitted. Lower acceptance rate may indicate that there more students wishing to take their degree programs at the University than can be accommodated or that the University has a very stringent selection criteria or both. High acceptance rate could also be true. However, this may be diluted by the total available slots per state compared to the total population, or students planning to pursue an undergraduate degree for each state.
- Enrollment Rate (10%) – This is the percentage of students who enrolled for a degree course in a University in relation to those who are admitted. Students usually apply to different Universities. It’s normal to have a student’s application accepted by more than one University. When this happens, a student will consider various factors about each University and pick one University amongst the several that accepted the student’s application. A high enrollment rate is an indication that students preferred the university over others when given an opportunity to enroll in several of them. We allocated a higher index to colleges with a higher a higher enrollment rate.
- Retention Rate (16%) – Is the percentage of first-time (full-time) undergraduate students who returned the following year to the University to continue their education after completing their first year at that particular University. This is a good measure of the quality of education and student satisfaction. A high retention rate is an indication that students felt that they were in the right place. A higher index was allocated to colleges with higher retention rates and low index to colleges with low retention rate.
- Student to faculty ratio (8%) – The smaller the student to faculty ratio, the better the interaction between students and faculty and student experience. Colleges with the lowest student to faculty ration were assigned higher scores than those with a higher student to faculty ratio.
- Percentage of Students receiving financial Aid (7%) – Colleges with a higher percentage of students receiving financial aid scored better than those with low percentages of students receiving financial aid.
- Loan Default Rate (20%) – Loan default rate is an indication of how much faster students are able to start their loan repayment after graduation. Colleges with low student default rates were allocated better scores than those with higher student loan default rate.
- Salary after attending college (15%).
- For affordability ranking, we only considered colleges in the top 40% in affordability (5%).
Additional Metrics for Specific degree programs
- Count of total online degree programs at all levels. Universities offering many online degree programs at all levels get a higher score for online college rankings.
- Program Accreditation – For specific degree programs, we looked at whether degree programs in a University have programmatic accreditation from reputable agencies. A programmatic accreditation would indicate that the course content has been accepted by the agency providing the program accreditation and therefore students are getting good quality education. We allocated an index to those Universities with the most respected program accreditation in that field and did not allocate to those without.
- Count of degrees available in a particular field – For ranks that were specific to degree programs, we considered the number of degree programs available for that type of degree. Colleges with more programs scored higher than those with one or few.