Definitions of Ranking Criteria
Acceptance rate: The ratio of the number of students admitted to the number of applicants for fall 2012 admission. The acceptance rate is equal to the total number of students admitted divided by the total number of applicants.
Both the applications and acceptances counted only first-time, first-year students. A lower acceptance rate when a school is harder to get into scores higher in the ranking model and a higher acceptance rate when a school is easier to get into scores lower in the ranking model.
Average alumni giving rate: The average percentage of undergraduate alumni of record who donated money to the college or university. Alumni of record are former full- or part-time students who received an undergraduate degree and for whom the college or university has a current address.
Graduates who earned only a graduate degree are excluded. Undergraduate alumni donors are alumni with undergraduate degrees from an institution who made one or more gifts for either current operations or capital expenses during the specified academic year.
The alumni giving rate is calculated by dividing the number of alumni donors during a given academic year by the number of alumni of record for that same year. These two separate alumni giving rates were then averaged for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years.
The percentage of alumni giving serves as a proxy for how satisfied students are with the school. A higher average alumni giving rate percentage scores better in the ranking model than a lower average alumni giving rate.
Average freshman retention rate: The percentage of first-year freshmen who returned to the same college or university the following fall. Average freshman retention rate indicates the average proportion of the first-year classes entering from fall 2008 through fall 2011 who returned the following fall.
If a school submits fewer than four years of freshman retention rate data, then the average is based on the number of years that are submitted by the school to U.S. News. A higher average freshman retention rate scores better in the ranking model than a lower average retention rate.
Average graduation rate: The percentage of entering freshmen who graduated within a six-year period or less, averaged over the classes entering from fall 2003 through fall 2006. (Note: This excludes students who transferred into the school and then graduated.)
If a school submits fewer than four years of graduation rate data, then the average is based on the number of years that are submitted. A higher average graduation rate scores better in the ranking model than a lower graduation rate.
Class size, 1-19 students: The percentage of undergraduate classes, excluding class subsections, with fewer than 20 students enrolled during fall 2012. A larger percentage of small classes scores higher in the ranking model than a lower percentage of small classes. In other words, the more small classes the better.
Class size, 50-plus students: The percentage of undergraduate classes, excluding class subsections, with 50 students or more enrolled during fall 2012. A smaller percentage of large classes scores higher in the ranking model than a larger percentage of large classes. In other words, the fewer large classes the better.
Expenditures per student: Financial resources are measured by the average spending per full-time-equivalent student on instruction, research, public service, academic support, student services and institutional support during the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.
The number of full-time-equivalent students is equal to the number of full-time students plus one-third of the number of part-time students. (Note: This includes both undergraduate and graduate students.)