To judge the level of quality at each of the schools on the A+ Schools for B Students list, we first examined two variables: the school's performance in the 2013 edition of U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings and the average freshman retention rate.
Because we believe the U.S. News rankings are a gauge of excellence, National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges had to be in the top three quarters of their categories in the 2013 edition of Best Colleges. Regional Universities and Regional Colleges had to be in or slightly below the top half of their categories of the 2013 rankings to be eligible for the A+ Schools for B Students list.
The average freshman retention rate (the percentage of first-year freshmen who returned for their sophomore year) was also calculated for first-year classes entering between fall 2007 and fall 2010 and returning the following fall; schools that made the cut had to bring an average of at least 75 percent of their freshmen back the next fall. This value can be an important indicator of student satisfaction.
In addition to being a top-quality school, colleges had to admit a meaningful proportion of non-"A" students. That determination was made by using fall 2011 admissions data that were based on the Critical Reading and Math portions of the SAT or Composite ACT scores and high school class standing. Whether the SAT or ACT was used in making these calculations depended on which score was submitted most often at that school for the fall 2011 entering class admissions decisions.
The rest of the specific screening criteria—which apply to all schools in all ranking categories unless stated otherwise—were used to create the 2013 edition of the A+ Schools for B Students final list, featuring slightly more than 300 schools:
• SAT 75th percentile score less than or equal to 1,350 (based on Critical Reading and Math)
• SAT 25th percentile score greater than or equal to 980 (based on Critical Reading and Math)
• ACT Composite 75th percentile score less than or equal to 30
• ACT Composite 25th percentile score greater than or equal to 20
• Proportion of freshmen from the top 10 percent of their high school class less than or equal to 50 percent (for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges only)
• Proportion of freshmen from the top 25 percent of their high school class less than or equal to 80 percent
• Proportion of freshmen from the top 25 percent of their high school class greater than or equal to 40 percent
• Average freshman retention rate greater than or equal to 75 percent
(Note: The fall 2011 acceptance rate and the selectivity rating were not used in the U.S. News calculations to determine the A+ Schools for B Students list.)
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