Colleges and universities work hard to convince prospective students to invest their time, talent, and money in them. So to help you see beyond the buzz word-fueled recruiting brochures and advertisements, we provide independent evaluations of online colleges and degree programs based on publicly available data and research to highlight those schools that offer a high-quality, reputable education at a reasonable cost.
Foremost, to even get on our rankings, schools must be a four-year, bachelor's degree-granting liberal arts college or university in the United States, with at least one top 50 ranking in another major ranking system in the last year. This ensures a base level of reputability and recognition. From there, we ranked the institutions based on their economic value, academic quality, and student satisfaction. Economic value took into consideration such factors as the real cost of the school, with schools with a lower tuition ranking higher, and the median starting salary and the median mid-career salary of graduates, to get a sense of the economic payoff of a school's degree.
Academic quality was determined by a school's acceptance rate, with the understanding that the more selective a college is, the higher caliber its students, and student-to-faculty ratio, with rankings favoring schools with a lower ratio of students to faculty. And student satisfaction was determined by looking at enrollment rate, retention rate, and six-year graduation rate, with a higher rating for each considered an indicator of student satisfaction. The exact methodology varies from ranking to ranking, but you can get an idea by looking at our list of the 50 Best Colleges and Universities.
No ranking system is perfect — a factor we put more weight on, such as real cost, for instance, may be less important to a prospective student than, say, acceptance rate. That is why we strive to be open and transparent about the data and methodology we use so applicants can make a decision based on what's right for them. We also encourage you to include our resources as just one part of your college search process — but one you can keep coming back to throughout your academic career. With that, here is the latest list of our college rankings, broken down by category: