2017 Best Value Colleges Methodology

The 2017 Best Value Colleges ranking is based on net price, alumni earnings, graduation rates, and student debt using data from the U.S. Department of Education along with millions of reviews from students and alumni. Learn where our data comes from.

Factors Considered

Factor Description Source Weight
Brookings Value Added Salary The percent median earnings are above or below the predicted mid-career salary based on school and student characteristics. Brookings Institute 12.5%
Average Net Price Average cost after financial aid for students receiving grant or scholarship aid, as reported by the college. U.S. Dept. of Education 10.0%
Graduation Rate (6-year) Percent of undergraduate students who graduate within six years. U.S. Dept. of Education 10.0%
Loan Default Rate Loan default rate of students who graduated within the past three years and have not deferred. U.S. Dept. of Education 10.0%
Median Earnings 2 Years After Graduation Median earnings six years after enrollment. U.S. Dept. of Education 10.0%
Median Earnings 6 Years After Graduation Median earnings ten years after enrollment. U.S. Dept. of Education 7.5%
Average Loan Amount (per year) Average value of student loans taken on by full-time undergraduate students. U.S. Dept. of Education 5.0%
Brookings Mid-Career Salary The median total earnings for full-time workers with at least 10 years of experience. Brookings Institute 5.0%
Full-Time Retention Rate Percent of full-time, first-time students enrolled the prior year that re-enroll the next year. U.S. Dept. of Education 5.0%
Percent Earning Over $25k 6 Years from Enrollment Percent of students who report making more than the average non college graduate six years after enrollment. U.S. Dept. of Education 5.0%
Percent Employed 2 Years After Graduation Percent of students who report working and not attending school six years after enrollment. U.S. Dept. of Education 5.0%
Percent Employed 6 Years After Graduation Percent of students who report working and not attending school ten years after enrollment. U.S. Dept. of Education 5.0%
Student Surveys on Value Niche survey responses scored on a 1-5 scale regarding the value and quality of postgraduate preparation at each school. Self-reported by Niche users 5.0%
Student-Faculty Ratio Total full-time undergraduate students per full-time undergraduate faculty. U.S. Dept. of Education 5.0%

This ranking assesses 1,591 4-year colleges and universities. The same methodology is used to produce the Niche Value Grade for each ranked school as well as additional 4-year colleges, community colleges, trade schools, and other 2-year programs. Statistics obtained from the U.S. Department of Education represent the most recent data available, usually from 2014–2016, as self-reported by the colleges.

For more details about how we calculate our rankings, click here.