Best Value Schools Methodology

Three variables were considered in determining the schools that offer the best value.

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Only those schools ranked in, or near, the top half of their Best Colleges 2014 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. 

[See frequently asked questions about the Best Values rankings.] 

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 the following three variables. 

[See an infographic of the top Best Value Schools.]

1. Ratio of quality to price: A school's overall score in the Best Colleges 2014 rankings was divided by the 2012-2013 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 2014 rank score to the discounted total cost for the academic year (after subtracting the average 2012-2013 academic year need-based scholarship or grant), the better the value. 

Total cost equals the sum of these costs for each school in the 2012-2013 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 2012-2013 academic year. The higher the percentage the better. 

3. Average discount: This is the percentage of a school's 2012-2013 total sticker costs (tuition, room and board, fees, books and other expenses) that is covered by the 2012-2013 academic year average need-based scholarship or grant to undergraduates. The higher the discount percentage the better. 

Note: In the case of public institutions, 2012-2013 out-of-state tuition and the percentage of out-of-state students receiving need-based scholarship or grants were used in all calculations. 

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