Any website on the Internet that ranks anything will inevitably need to answer this question:
How do you create your ranking lists?
Considering that our rankings may help you determine a course for the rest of your life, it’s a valid question. We take it very seriously because we value your trust.
Our process is two-fold.
1. Data analysis & research
TheBestSchools.org uses a proprietary “multicriteria optimization” algorithm that analyzes key data indicators in the information each school supplies to the federal government (such as IPEDS and NCES). Depending on the focus of the specific ranking, appropriate criteria are weighted. These considerations are shown below grouped by weight, with the most important first:
- Academic excellence based on a school’s curriculum generally or within the selected discipline
- Faculty-student ratio and class size
- Retention and graduation rate
- Admission and enrollment rates
- National and regional school accreditation
- Degree-specific professional accreditation and certification
- Reputation and awards
- Program costs and affordability (higher consideration for affordability rankings)
- Per credit costs
- Percentage of students taking or not taking loans
- Loan default rate
- Financial aid offerings
- Return on investment
- Number and range of online degree programs
- Percentage of students in online classes
- Strength of online instruction methodology
- Types of online technology used to deliver content
- Pedagogy style: asynchronous, synchronous, or both
- Academic and professional citations
- Strength of faculty scholarship
- Breadth and diversity of faculty alma maters
- Reputation among employers and professionals in related fields
- Quality of post-graduation life and alumni associations
The above represent common criteria we take into account, but each ranking will determine which criteria we consider and their weighting. In the case of unusual rankings, we will account for additional and/or unique criteria specific to that ranking. In every case, we note the ranking-specific methodology for each list we publish, so you know which criteria we considered.
2. Professional experience
Because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from InfluenceRankings.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, and/or other sources we deem valuable to an accurate ranking.
In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.
If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please check the web page for the ranking in question for information on the criteria employed. For any remaining questions, please feel free to connect with our staff through our Contact page.
We thank you for your readership and trust.