For the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News has produced a ranking of the undergraduate education at historically black colleges and universities. These HBCUs were compared only with one another for this ranking.
In order to be on the list, a school must be currently listed as part of the U.S. Department of Education's Historically Black Colleges and Universities registry.
The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as "any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary (of Education) to be a reliable authority as to the quality of training offered or is, according to such an agency or association, making reasonable progress toward accreditation."
To qualify for the U.S. News ranking, an HBCU also must be an undergraduate baccalaureate-granting institution that enrolls primarily first-year, first-time students and must be a school that is currently part of the 2014 Best Colleges rankings.
In almost all cases, if an HBCU is listed as Unranked in the 2014 Best Colleges rankings, it is also listed as Unranked in the HBCU rankings; see more details below. In total, there were 81 HBCUs; 70 of those were ranked and 11 of those were Unranked.
The data that were used in the HCBU rankings – except the peer survey results, which used a separate HBCU peer assessment survey – were the same as those published and used in the 2014 edition of the Best Colleges rankings.
The U.S. News rankings system rests on two pillars: It relies on quantitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality, and it's based on our nonpartisan view of what matters in education.
The indicators we use to capture academic quality fall into six categories: assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.
The indicators include input measures that reflect a school's student body, its faculty and its financial resources, along with outcome measures – such as graduation rates and freshman retention rates – that signal how well the institution does its job of educating students.
The HBCU rankings are based on nearly the same statistical indicators, but with slightly different weights, as were used in the Best Colleges 2014 rankings for the schools in the Regional Universities and Regional Colleges categories. The following are detailed descriptions of the statistical indicators and weights that were used to measure academic quality among the HBCUs that were ranked.
Peer assessment (25 percent): The U.S. News ranking formula gives greatest weight to the opinions of those in a position to judge a school's undergraduate academic excellence. The peer assessment survey allows the top HBCU academics we consult to account for intangibles such as faculty dedication to teaching.
Each individual is asked to rate peer schools' academic programs on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (distinguished). Those who don't know enough about a school to evaluate it fairly are asked to mark "don't know."
In the spring and summer of 2013, U.S. News conducted an exclusive peer survey among only the president, provost and admission dean at each HBCU. Each HBCU received three surveys. The recipients were asked to rate all HBCUs for their undergraduate academic quality, considering each school's scholarship record, curriculum and quality of faculty and graduates at schools with which they were familiar.
The results from this HBCU peer survey were different than those used in the 2014 Best Colleges rankings. A total of 243 HBCU peer assessment surveys were sent out, and 28 percent responded. Ipsos Public Affairs, an international market research firm, collected the data.
Retention (27.5 percent): The higher the proportion of freshmen who return to campus the following year and eventually graduate, the more likely a school is offering the classes and services students need to succeed.