Why did my college’s ranking change?

Niche rankings are based on rigorous analysis of academic, admissions, financial, and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education along with millions of reviews from students and alumni. Learn more about our rankings.

The most important thing to understand about your school’s ranking is that it measures how your school compares to all other schools considered in the ranking. Therefore your rankings could change for three reasons:

1. Changes in your school’s data
2. Changes in other schools’ data or the population of schools considered in the ranking
3. Changes in our rankings methodology

Below we expand on each of these concepts:

1. Changes in your school’s data

Niche uses the most recently available data from the U.S. Department of Education as the basis for most statistical factors used in rankings. Our student-driven factors have also been updated based on millions of reviews and datapoints submitted by millions of Niche users over the last year. Learn more about where our data comes from.

2. Changes in other schools’ data or the population of schools considered in the ranking

The biggest change this year is that we’ve expanded the population of schools that we ranked and graded. This year we had enough data to assess over 2,100 4-year colleges, about 550 more than last year. Since each school’s ranking/grade is calculated relative to all other schools assessed, the inclusion of so many more schools had a significant impact on each school’s rankings and grades. In general, most schools saw their rankings fall year-over-year, yet saw their grades rise. This is because the 550 additional schools spanned across the distribution in terms of quality but a majority of them were lower performing schools which boosted grades in general. As outlined above, all rankings factors for all schools were updated with new data for this year.

3. Changes in our rankings methodology

This year, our Best Colleges ranking puts more weight on Academic and Value factors and slightly less on student surveys and student life factors (View the Best Colleges methodology). We’ve also incorporated a time decay algorithm for calculating survey scores so that older reviews have less prominence. As mentioned above, the biggest change this year was that we’ve expanded the universe of schools that we ranked/graded to over 2,100 4-year colleges, about 550 more than last year. We believe these improvements provide a more accurate and helpful representation of each school.

Questions?
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