We first scaled the public service and research values by the percentage of full-time-equivalent undergraduate students attending the school. Next, we added in total instruction, academic support, student services, institutional support and operations and maintenance (for public institutions only) and then divided by the number of full-time-equivalent students.
After calculating this value, we applied a logarithmic transformation to the spending per full-time-equivalent student, prior to standardizing the value. This calculation process was done for all schools.
If a school submits fewer than two years of expenditures per student, then the average is based on the one year that is submitted.
Higher average expenditures per student score better in the ranking model than lower average expenditures per student. In other words, financial resources do matter in terms of being able to provide students with a high-quality college experience.
Faculty compensation: The average faculty pay and benefits are adjusted for regional differences in cost of living. This includes full-time assistant, associate and full professors. The values are taken for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years and then averaged.
If a school submits fewer than two years of faculty salary data, then only one year is used. The regional differences in cost of living are taken from indexes from Runzheimer International.
If a school submits fewer than two years of faculty salary data, then the average is based on the one year that is submitted. Higher average faculty salaries after adjusting for regional cost of living score better in the ranking model than lower average faculty salaries.
Faculty with Ph.D.s or terminal degree: The percentage of full-time faculty members with a doctorate or the highest degree possible in their field or specialty during the 2012-2013 academic year. A larger proportion of full-time faculty with the terminal degree in their field scores better in the ranking model than schools with a lower proportion.
Graduation rate performance: The difference between the actual six-year graduation rate for students entering in fall 2006 and the predicted graduation rate. The predicted graduation rate is based upon characteristics of the entering class, as well as characteristics of the institution.
This indicator of added value shows the effect of the college's programs and policies on the graduation rate of students after controlling for spending and student characteristics such as test scores and the proportion receiving Pell Grants.
If the actual graduation rate is higher than the predicted rate, the college is enhancing achievement or is overperforming. If its actual graduation is lower than the predicted rate, then it's underperforming.
A school with a higher ratio of its actual graduation rate compared with its U.S. News predicted graduation rate (actual graduation rate divided by predicted rate) scores better in the ranking model than a school with a lower ratio of its actual graduation rate compared with its U.S. News predicted graduation rate.
For the first time, in the 2014 edition of the Best Colleges rankings, this measure is included for all the ranking categories. Since 1997, graduation rate performance had been used only in the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges ranking categories.
High school class standing: The proportion of students enrolled for the academic year beginning in fall 2012 who graduated in the top 10 percent (for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges) or 25 percent (Regional Universities and Regional Colleges) of their high school class.
A higher proportion of students from either the top 10 percent or top 25 percent of their high school class scores better in the ranking model than lower proportions from either the top 10 percent or top 25 percent.