For the sixth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has produced a ranking of the undergraduate education at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). These colleges were compared only with one another for these rankings.
How did we choose the schools to be part of the survey? In order to be on the list, a school currently must be listed as part of the U.S. Department of Education's Historically Black Colleges and Universities registry.
The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as "any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary [of Education] to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation."
To qualify for the U.S. News ranking, an HBCU also must be an undergraduate baccalaureate-granting institution that enrolls primarily first-year, first-time students and must have been a school that was currently part of the 2013 Best Colleges rankings. In almost all cases, if an HBCU was listed as Unranked in the 2013 Best Colleges rankings, it was also listed as being Unranked in the HBCU rankings (see more details below). In total, there were 80 HBCUs eligible to be ranked, and 8 of those were Unranked.
The data that were used in the HCBU rankings—except the peer survey results, which used a separate HBCU peer assessment survey—were the same as those published and used in the 2013 edition of the Best Colleges rankings.
The U.S. News rankings system rests on two pillars: It relies on quantitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality, and it's based on our nonpartisan view of what matters in education. The indicators we use to capture academic quality fall into six categories: assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, and alumni giving.
The indicators include input measures that reflect a school's student body, its faculty, and its financial resources, along with outcome measures—such as graduation rates and freshman retention rates—that signal how well the institution does its job of educating students.
The HBCU rankings are based on the same statistical methodology and weights used in the Best Colleges 2013 rankings for the schools in the Regional Universities and Regional Colleges ranking categories. Following are detailed descriptions of the statistical indicators and the weights that were used to measure academic quality among the HBCUs that were ranked:
Peer assessment (weighting: 25 percent): The U.S. News ranking formula gives greatest weight to the opinions of those in a position to judge a school's undergraduate academic excellence. The peer assessment survey allows the top HBCU academics we consult to account for intangibles such as faculty dedication to teaching. Each individual is asked to rate peer schools' academic programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Those who don't know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly are asked to mark "don't know."
In spring and summer of 2012, U.S. News conducted an exclusive peer survey among only the president, provost, and admission dean at each HBCU. Each HBCU received three surveys. The recipients were asked to rate all HBCUs for their undergraduate academic quality, considering each school's scholarship record, curriculum, and quality of faculty and graduates at schools with which they were familiar.