Tuition has increased at a rate that has outpaced salaries. At the same time, college degrees have become much more important. For more and more families, that means looking at state-supported (aka public) universities. What many people may not know is that smaller colleges that don't have big-time sports machines may offer smaller classes with more personal attention and do a better job making sure students graduate.
For families and students most interested in schools that do the most to recruit and graduate low-income students and as well as in schools that do the most to encourage students to give back to society, you will probably learn more from the Washington Monthly ranking of research universities, liberal arts colleges, and master's universities.
SCORING: Data for this list comes from U.S. News & World Report and College Prowler.
The factors considered in scoring: freshman retention, graduation rate, % of classes with fewer than 20 students, % of classes with more than 50 students, and % of alumni donations. Where information was unavailable, that is noted in the individual school's entry. I’m not a professional statistician nor education expert, so this system is not perfect. However, experts say these metrics are strong indicators of student happiness, the happiness of graduates with their experience, the seriousness your student's classmates will take his or her education, and the school's dedication to providing personal attention to your student.
Sample score: Fauxville State University: Freshmen Retention: 75%, Graduation Rate: 50%, Classes 20 & under: 33%, Classes 50 & over: 24%, freshmen in the top 10% of their graduating class 20%, and alumni giving: 10%.
Fauxville State’s score would be 75 + 50 + 33 – 24 + 20 + 10 = 164.
A perfect score would be 500.
This list includes all schools that scored at least 200 as well as schools that scored at least 170, but met certain quality standards: At least 75% freshman retention, At least 50% graduation rate, At least 33% of classes with fewer than 20 students, and no more than 25% of classes with over 50 students.
Many education experts point out that the military academies' requirement of service in the armed forces post-graduation makes listing them a comparison of apples and oranges. I agree when a list is taking into consideration student debt, default rates, or a college's "return on investment." Since those factors aren't included in this ranking, I think it's fair to include the Armed Forces academies here.
The list is probably complete, but please feel free to leave a comment if you feel a school has been omitted in error.Although this list reports the top scoring schools, this is not necessarily an endorsement of a good match for a student. Be sure to visit colleges and use resources such as the College Board, Cappex, Princeton Review, College Navigator, College Factual, and College Prowler.