Why isn't my school on the list?
Our lists exclude schools that do not meet our criteria for academic quality and affordability. We start with data on more than 600 private institutions and sort the schools first based on quality measures, such as the admission rate, the test scores of incoming freshmen, and four- and five-year graduation rates. We then add cost data, including tuition, fees, room and board and financial aid, and re-rank the institutions accordingly. It is this combination of quality and affordability -- certainly not any desire on our part to exclude a particular school or state -- that determines which schools make our lists for best value.
Why don't any schools from my state appear on the list?
In some states, no private college or university meets our criteria for quality and affordability.
Last year you dropped three colleges from your list. What happened?
After the publication of our rankings of the best values in private colleges and universities for 2011-12, Kiplinger's learned that three schools unfairly earned their spots by reporting false data. Accordingly, we dropped Claremont McKenna College, Scripps College and Emory University from our rankings. All three schools submitted new data for our 2012-13 rankings and appear in this year's lists.
George Washington University (number 49 in this year's rankings for private universities) announced that it overstated the percentage of freshmen who graduated in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. Does this affect Kiplinger's rankings?
No. Kiplinger's academic criteria do not include the class standing of incoming freshmen. We gauge academic quality according to the test scores (SAT or ACT) of incoming freshmen, the competitiveness of the school (admission rate and yield), the freshman retention rate, the student-faculty ratio, and the four- and five-year graduation rates (for details, see How We Rank the Schools). The George Washington University reported that 78% of incoming freshmen in the fall of 2011 had graduated in the top 10% of their high school graduating class when only 58% had done so. GW officials say that the overstatement is the result of a flaw in the school's reporting methods.
Why do you divide the rankings into two lists?
To better compare apples to apples, we group the institutions into two categories. One ranks liberal arts colleges, which focus on undergraduate education, and the other ranks private universities, which include graduate students.
Do the costs listed in the tables reflect one academic year or all four years of undergraduate education?
The costs reflect the amount each institution charges and the average amount of financial aid each institution offers for one academic year. The rankings also reflect the average debt student borrowers accrue as undergraduates.
I don't see Truman State University, which is a terrific school at a great price, on either list. How come?
Our private school rankings are just that -- they consider only private colleges and universities. We have separate rankings for best values in public colleges and universities (in which Truman State is ranked 23 for 2011-2012). Look for the 2012-13 rankings for best values in public colleges in Kiplinger’s February 2013 issue.
I've read that college rankings are based on subjective opinions, not hard data. Is that true?
Unlike other college rankings, ours are based on measurable criteria, such as student-faculty ratios, admission rates, on-time graduation rate, sticker price and financial aid. Neither our opinion nor anyone else’s affects the calculation.