Since 2008, the US business magazine Forbes, together with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), has had a national ranking with “America’s Top Colleges”. Part of this ranking is the so-called “America’s Best Value Colleges”, for which Forbes has developed a new methodology since 2016. In this ranking, one question is in the foreground: Which university is worth the investment and offers the best price-performance ratio ? Forbes and the CCAP examined over 650 universities for this aspect: large research universities, leading liberal art colleges, both private and public universities. The best 300 universities received a placement in the online America’s Best Value College ranking.
Forbes America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking: Methodology
Forbes worked with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) to collect data from various sources to identify the universities with the best value for money. The methodology consists of a formula of five general categories and their percentage weights divided by the tuition fees (gross):
Quality (35%) + risk of dropping out (15%) + duration of study (15%) + alumni salaries (25%) + alumni skills (10%) / gross tuition fees
The following categories are included in the ranking:
- Quality (35%): Based on the Forbes Top Colleges Ranking 2015 using the following methodology:
- Student satisfaction (25%) with data from social media areas such as Facebook and RateMyProfessors.
- Post Graduation Success (32.5%): Salaries (10%), Forbes America’s Leaders List (22.5%)
- Student debt (25%)
- Graduation rate
- Academic success of students (10%): Proportion of students with recognized scholarships (7.5%) and proportion of students who completed their studies with a Ph.D. continue (2.5%)
- Dropout risk (15%): Based on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPED)
- Proportion of students who do not graduate within six years. For example, if 80% of a year graduate within six years, 20% remain, which is included in the “dropout risk” factor.
- Study time / graduation success (15%):
- Forbes likewise looks at the IPEDS data for the average number of years it takes students who graduate within six years to graduate. An excellent university has an average of four years, a less successful university, for example, an average of 5.7 years.
- Alumni Salaries (25%): Based on data from PayScale and the US Department of Education College Scorecard
- Forbes uses its own mixed model to calculate the “mid-career earnings” (income in the middle of the career, after ten years of work).
- PayScale is the market leader in global income data, but this data is self-reported.
- The College Scorecard is based on tax returns and only obtains data from former students who have received government funding.
- Alumni skills / added value (10%): Based on a formula developed by Brookings for a ranking system that relates to the added value that a university offers.
- The added value is the difference between the actual “mid-career” income of the alumni and the estimated income based on student characteristics (educational background, race and ethnicity, family income) and the type of university (location of the university, level of degrees, etc.)
The categories listed above are divided by the gross tuition fees of the university. This includes all fees that are incurred when attending the university (no cost of living). In the case of public universities, the different fees for “in-state” and “out-state” were taken into account: For example, if one college has 5% out-state students while another has 25%, this will also influence the calculation of the tuition fees. The data on the tuition fees are also provided by the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System).
Extract from America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking
In 2018, more than 50 state universities are represented in this special ranking. Seven public colleges dominate the top 10, such as the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Los Angeles or the University of California, San Diego. These universities not only have a good reputation, they are also a “great deal”.
- 1st place: Brigham Young University
- 2nd place: Princeton University
- 3rd place: University of California, Irvine
- 4th place: University of California, Los Angeles
- 5th place: University of California, Berkeley
- 6th place: Stanford University
- 7th place: Harvard University
- 8th place: Amherst College
- 9th place: CUNY, Baruch College
- 10th place: University of Washington, Seattle
Our partner universities in the top 100
- 11th place: University of California, Davis
- 12th place: University of California, Santa Barbara
- 13th place: University of California, San Diego
- 27th place: University of California, Riverside
- 30th place: San Diego State University
- 37th place: California State University, Long Beach
- 40th place: San José State University
- 53rd place: California State University, Fullerton
- 73rd place: California State University, Chico
- 85th place: University of Chicago
- 89th place: University of Minnesota
- 92nd place: California State University, Northridge
Further partner universities in the ranking
- 108th place: California State University, East Bay
- 112th place: San Francisco State University
- 117th place: University of Wisconsin-Madison
- 139th place: California State University, Los Angeles
- 143rd place: John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- 179th place: Sonoma State University
- 192nd place: California State University San Bernardino
- 199th place: State University of New York – College at New Paltz
- 200th place: Texas State University
Rating America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking
In contrast to many other rankings, the respective reputation of the university or its research intensity is irrelevant in the Forbes ranking – which in this case leads to results that may surprise at first glance: The top best value colleges are not the private ones Universities located on the east coast and founded before 1800. Here it is the comparatively young and public institutions on the west coast that are primarily focused on the MINT subjects that do particularly well. First and foremost: The University of California System.
The fact that the indicators primarily relate to the students is to be assessed positively, whereby they themselves have their say, be it via Facebook or the RateMyProfessor platform. Decisive factors such as indebtedness and future earning potential are also taken into account in relation to the amount of tuition fees. Factors that generally do not play a role at all in other rankings.
The ranking makes a general assessment of the price-performance ratio of US universities. However, it does not make any concrete statements about the quality of teaching and research or about the quality of certain subject areas.