Only those schools ranked in, or near, the top half of their Best Colleges 2013 edition ranking categories—National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Colleges, and Regional Universities—were considered for the Best Value Schools lists. The schools' overall Best Values ranks were determined by first standardizing the scores achieved by every school in each of the three variables listed below and then weighting and summing those scores.
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The ratio of quality to price accounted for 60 percent of the overall score; the percentage of all undergraduates receiving need-based grants accounted for 25 percent; and the average discount accounted for 15 percent. The school with the highest total weighted points became No. 1 in its category. The other schools were then numerically ranked in descending order based on their weighted scores.
The Best Values rankings were based on these three variables:
1. Ratio of quality to price: A school's overall score in the Best Colleges 2013 rankings was divided by the 2011-2012 academic year net cost to a student receiving the average need-based scholarship or grant. The higher the ratio of a school's Best Colleges 2013 edition ranking score to the discounted total cost for the academic year (after subtracting the average 2011-2012 academic year need-based scholarship or grant), the better the value.
Total cost equals the sum of these cost factors for each school from the 2011-2012 academic year: tuition, room and board, fees, books, and other expenses, including transportation. For schools that didn't break out these items separately, we used their comprehensive fee for tuition and room and board.
2. Need-based aid: Another factor is the percentage of all undergraduates receiving need-based scholarships or grants during the 2011-2012 academic year. The higher the percentage the better.
3. Average discount: This is the percentage of a school's 2011-2012 total sticker costs (tuition, room and board, fees, books, and other expenses) that is covered by the 2011-2012 academic year average need-based scholarship or grant to undergraduates. The higher the discount percentage the better.
Note: In the case of public institutions, 2011-2012 out-of-state tuition and percentage of out-of-state students receiving need-based scholarship or grants were used in all calculations.
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