Business Insider just released its 2016 ranking of the best colleges in America. This year, we adopted a new methodology that put less weight glamour statistics, like reputation and selectivity, and more emphasis on hard measures that demonstrate a school’s efficacy.
Here’s how we put together the ranking.
We started with the Department of Education, gathering hundreds of the most recent data points reported by several thousand colleges from across the country. We keyed on the following metrics, with points awarded for each:
- 2 points — Median earnings of students working and not enrolled 10 years after entry
- 2 points — Median earnings of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry
- 3 points — Graduation rate within four years
- 1 point — Full-time retention rate in 2014
- 0.5 point — Average annual net cost (According to the Department of Education, this includes “tuition and fees, books and supplies, and living expenses, minus the average grant/scholarship aid” and is calculated for full-time, first-time undergrads who received aid.)
- 0.5 point — Per cent admitted
- 0.5 point — Average SAT score
College years are formative for young adults, so we also gave significant credit to schools that provide a top-notch student life experience, as measured by Niche, a company that compiles research on schools. Niche assessed the social and community life of universities and provided letter grades based on metrics like campus quality, diversity, party scene, student retention, safety, and athletics. We gave 2 points for a schools student life score.
Each metric was normalized by fitting values on a scale from 0 to 1 and then multiplied by the points above. With these metrics ranked we sifted a group of several thousand schools down to only the 50 best.
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