The U.S. News ranking formula gives greatest
weight (25 percent) to reputation because a degree from a distinguished
college so clearly helps graduates get good jobs or gain admission to top
graduate programs. The reputation survey also allows top academics to account
for intangibles, such as faculty dedication to teaching. A school's reputation
is determined by surveying the presidents, provosts, and deans of admission
at institutions in a single category. Each individual was asked to rate
peer schools' academic programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished).
Those individuals who didn't know enough about a school to evaluate it
fairly were asked to mark "don't know." Market Facts Inc., an opinion-research
firm based near Chicago, collected the reputational data; 67 percent of
the 3,969 people sent questionnaires responded.
The higher the proportion of freshmen who return
to campus the following year and eventually graduate, the better a school
may be at offering the classes and services students need to succeed. This
measure has two components: six–year graduation rate (80 percent of the
retention score) and its freshman retention rate (20 percent of the score).
The graduation rate indicates the average proportion of a graduating class
who earn a degree in six years or less; we considered freshman classes
that started between 1990 and 1993. Freshman retention indicates the average
proportion of freshmen entering between 1995 and 1998 who returned the
Research shows that the more satisfied students are
with their contact with professors, the more they will learn and the more
likely it is they will graduate. We use six factors from the 1999–2000
academic year to assess a school's commitment to instruction. Class size
has two components: One represents the proportion of classes with fewer
than 20 students (30 percent of the faculty resources score); the second
represents the proportion with 50 or more students (10 percent of the score).
Faculty salary (35 percent) is the average faculty pay, plus benefits,
during the 1998–99 and 1999–2000 academic years, adjusted for regional
differences in the cost of living (using indexes from Runzheimer International).
We also weigh the proportion of professors with the highest degree in their
fields (15 percent of the score), the student-faculty ratio (5 percent),
and the proportion of the faculty who are full time (5 percent)
A school's academic atmosphere is determined in part
by the abilities and ambitions of the student body. We therefore factor
in test scores of enrollees on the SAT or ACT tests (40 percent of this
ranking factor); the proportion of enrolled freshmen who graduated in the
top 10 percent of their high school classes for the national institutions
and the top 25 percent for the regional schools (35 percent of the score);
the acceptance rate, or the ratio of students admitted to applicants (15
percent); and the yield, or the ratio of students who enroll to those admitted
(10 percent). The data are for the fall 1999 entering class.
Financial resources. Generous
per-student spending indicates that a college is able to offer a wide variety
of programs and services. U.S. News measures the average spending
per student on instruction, research, student services, and related educational
expenditures during the 1998 and 1999 fiscal years.
Graduation rate performance.
This indicator of "added value" was developed to
capture the effect of the college's programs and policies on the graduation
rate of students after controlling for spending and student aptitude. We
measure the difference between a school's six-year graduation rate for
the class that entered in 1993 and the predicted rate for the class. The
predicted rate takes into account the standardized test scores of these
students as incoming freshmen and the school's expenditures on them. If
the actual graduation rate is higher than the predicted rate, the college
is enhancing achievement.
Alumni giving rate.
The percentage of alumni who gave to their school
during the 1998 and 1999 academic years is an indirect measure of alumni
To arrive at a school's
rank, we first calculated the weighted sum of its standardized scores.
The final scores were rescaled: The top school was assigned a value
of 100, and the other schools' weighted scores were calculated as a proportion
of that top score. Final scores for each ranked school were rounded to
the nearest whole number and ranked in descending order.