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General and Undergraduate Rankings

Note: While these sites may contain information of value to you, the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library (SSHEL) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign do not endorse the sites or the information they contain. For more information and current research on rankings, we encourage you to read some of the articles listed in our College Rankings Bibliography and to see our Caution and Controversy page. For questions or comments, please contact Nancy O’Brien.

Asian Nation’s Best Colleges for Asian Americans
Methodology: This website excerpts information from the article “The Best Colleges for Asian Americans” in A. Magazine (September 30, 2000).
Asian-Nation’s website includes the top 25 universities and the top 25 liberal arts colleges for Asian Americans along with Asian American college students’ commentary provided from A. Magazine’s article. This website only lists a portion of the results from A. Magazine’s survey. The article notes some fallacies of the survey, such as depending on the colleges/universities to report statistics as well as certain notable schools that did not participate in the survey. For more information see: Chan, Anita and Dina Gan. “The Best Colleges for Asian Americans.” A. Magazine (September 30, 2000), pg. 39.

Center for Digital Education’s Digital Community Colleges Survey 
Methodology: These rankings are based on community college officials’ questionnaire responses and school data.
Created by the Center for Digital Education and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), this survey ranks the top ten tech-savvy community colleges in the categories of large (7,500 students or more), mid-size (3,000-7,500 students) and small (less than 3,000 students) community colleges. The survey is run every two years and past survey results are listed. As of 2023, the last survey results were published in 2018. The past Digital Community Colleges Survey Reports are available for free download, but registration is required.

College Choice’s 100 Best Colleges and Universities
Methodology: An explanation of their methodology can be found on the “How College Rankings Work” page. Scroll down to the section on “College Choice: Rankings Students Want.”
College Choice has ranked the 100 Best Colleges and Universities in the United States. The numbering is based on the College Choice Score, which according to the methodology page considers factors such as academic reputation, financial aid, overall net cost, and student success in the job market. The College Choice website also offers Online College Rankings, Residential College Rankings, College Life Rankings, and “Most Affordable” Rankings. Note: though the College Choice Degree Finder search box on the left looks like a site search from College Choice, it is actually a sponsored search and should be used with caution.

College Factual 
Methodology: College Factual allows users to peruse information about colleges and universities, such as percentage of full-time faculty, average student loan burden upon graduation, and annual price increase for education expenditures. While providing their own rankings based on a variety of factors, the site also affords users the ability to compile rankings based on customized characteristics, as well as to compare two institutions against one another in their “College Combat” feature.
The site compiles its rankings for colleges and universities predominantly using sources from the US Department of Education. This includes data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), such as the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) and the Integrated Post secondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Additionally, salary data for graduates comes from PayScale, as well as the Department of Education. For their sports rankings, College Factual partners with NCSA Athletic Recruiting and uses information from the Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education using its Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool.

Forbes‘ America’s Top Colleges
Methodology:  A thorough explanation of the research and sources used for the rankings is available on its Methodology page.
In 2008, Forbes Magazine began publishing an annual ranking of American public and private colleges and universities.  The site includes an overall ranking of evaluated colleges and universities, a ranking of each school with the best value for its education, and articles about higher education.  Rankings can be sorted by rank, name, state, cost, size, and, public or private institutions.  Student evaluations, career success, student debt, four year graduation rate, and awards to students and faculty are used as the basis for Forbes‘ rankings scale.

Kiplinger’s 100 Best Values in Public Colleges
Methodology:This site offers an explanation of its methods on a page titled How We Rank the Top Public College Values
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine offers its ranking of the top 100 values in public, four-year institutions of higher education. According to Kiplinger’s, these are “schools where students can graduate with a high-caliber education, but without a mortgage-size debt.” This site was first published in 1998, and has been updated with more recent cost figures.

MONEY’s Best Colleges for Your Money Rankings
Methodology: MONEY’s Methodology can be found here.
MONEY ranks over 2,400 colleges to find the best colleges that combine educational quality, affordability, and alumni success. Users can customize based on location, major, school size, test scores and requirements, financial aid, scholarships, graduate debt, and financial earnings of graduates. Finally, MONEY offers various other “Specialty Rankings” such as Best Public Colleges, Best Colleges Where More Than Half of Applicants Get In, and Best Colleges in the South (and many more).

MONEY’s The 50 Best Colleges for African Americans—in One Handy Chart
Methodology: The methodology can be found at the beginning of the article.
MONEY and Essence Magazine collaborated to find the schools with the best value for African Americans. They focused on four factors: graduation rates, affordability, earnings potential, and representation.

Niche Best Colleges
Methodology: This site offers no separate delineation of its methods.
This site offers rankings of “the top two-hundred schools in America” in categories that range from academics, athletics, transportation, and computers to guys, girls, nightlife, and campus dining. Individual schools are given grades in twenty subjects, and while there is no explanation for the grading system, student quotes are offered for each school.

OEDb’s Online College Rankings
Methodology: This site offers an explanation of its methods on a page titled Methodology.
This site ranks 21 of the nation’s top online undergraduate degree granting colleges by eight different metrics. The rankings include an overall ranking and also rankings by each of the eight different metrics: Acceptance Rate, Financial Aid, Graduation Rate, Peer Web Citations, Retention Rate, Scholarly Citations, Student-Faculty Ratio, Years Accredited.

Parchment Top Choice College Rankings: All Colleges
Methodology: This site explains its methodology in a sidebar on its College Ranking: All Colleges page.
This site utilizes a rankings preference methodology to rank colleges by student enrollment choices, rather than by matriculation and admission rates. Data is from students who use the Parchment application database (currently over 800,000 applications) during the college application process. The data is collated to determine what schools students are admitted to, and at which schools they choose to matriculate. Colleges are ranked based on a points system that begins at a base of 1500 points, then rewards college for being selected; colleges gain additional points for being selected over a higher ranked school. The web site explains its methodology on the main College Rankings page to help users put its rankings into perspective.

Princeton Review‘s The Best Colleges Ranked by Students
Methodology: This site offers an explanation of its rankings on a page titled Surveying Students: How We Do It.
This site presents the results of surveys completed by college students nationwide. Rankings are offered for topics ranging from the serious (Libraries, Best Overall Academic Experience for Undergraduates, etc.) to the informal and humorous (Lots of Beer, Got Milk?, etc.). For more information about how Princeton Review’s rankings are compiled and what to make of them, consult the pages on Surveying Students and the Rankings which provide an overview of their system.

Methodology: This site offers an explanation of its rankings on a page titled ‘Rankings Methodology’.
This site provides “answers to the questions college students wish they had known to ask”. They collect surveys from undergraduate and graduate students who evaluate their universities based on questions in three categories: Department, University, and Social/Interactive. Please note that this is not a scientific sampling, but offers anecdotal reviews (positive and negative) of 1,400 universities and counting.

The Upshot: The Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges
Methodology: A thorough explanation of the research methods used is available on the ranking’s page.
Constructed by “The Upshot,” a data-focused endeavor by the New York Times, these rankings display the efforts (or lack thereof) of top U.S. colleges and universities to encourage greater economic diversity amongst their student bodies. The rankings graphic allows you to explore how these institutions compare regarding valuable measures of economic diversity, such as Pell Grant recipients and their dispersal over time, net-price of attendance for low and middle-income students after accounting for assistance, and endowment per student.

U.S. News and World Report Best Online Programs 
Methodology: This site offers an explanation of its rankings on a page titled “About the Rankings/Methodology.”
U.S. New and World Report’s Best Online Program Rankings, updated annually, contains extensive information about online degree programs across the United States. Online program are divided and ranked by programs conferring a bachelor’s degree, graduate business programs, graduate education programs, graduate engineering programs, graduate programs in computer-information technology, and graduate nursing programs. These categories can be further refined through discipline-based subdivisions, though the subdivisions do not contain rankings information. Rankings are based on factors such as student engagement, faculty credentials and training, peer reputation, and student services and technology. Admissions selectivity is also factored into rankings, but only for graduate-degree programs.

U.S. News and World Report College Rankings
Methodology: This site offers an explanation of its rankings on a page titled About the Rankings/Methodology
Updated annually, this site contains extensive information about colleges and universities in the United States, including selected undergraduate programs. The list is divided both by region and by category (National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Schools and Top Public Schools). Factors such as diversity, specialty schools/programs (ranked and non-ranked), and state-by-state results are ranked separately. A searchable index also provides access to the site’s contents. Beginning in 2002, much of the information formerly provided free became available for purchase only from this site.

Washington Monthly College Guide
Methodology: The rankings are described in the article “A Note on Methodology”.
This site compares rankings from other rankings sites, most notably from U.S. News and World Report, and recalculated them according to involvement in community service, research, and social mobility of students. The Methodology page provides an explanation for the criteria used. Listed are both the top 245 National Universities and the top 202 liberal arts colleges based on their criteria.

What Will They Learn?  A Guide to What College Rankings Don’t Tell You
Methodology:  The criteria for their institution rankings is explained on their Rating Criteria page.
Created by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), this site aims to compare and describe the general education requirements for undergraduate students at colleges and universities.  Also included on the site is the graduation rate of undergraduate students at each institution, a list of institutions with the site’s top grade, and a list of schools with a tuition of $30,000 and above.  The rankings criteria consider whether the institution provides required courses in the fields of composition, literature, foreign language, U.S. government or history, economics, mathematics, and natural or physical science. A, B, C, D, or F grades are awarded based on the number of requirements the institution offers.