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.
This measure has two components: six-year graduation rate (80 percent of the retention score) and freshman retention rate (20 percent). This is a change from the 2013 edition of the HBCU rankings when retention was weighted at 25 percent.
The graduation rate indicates the average proportion of a graduating class that earns a degree in six years or less; we consider freshman classes that started from fall 2003 through fall 2006. Freshman retention indicates the average proportion of freshmen entering each fall from 2008 through 2011 who returned the following fall.
Faculty resources (20 percent): Research shows that the more satisfied students are about their contact with professors, the more they will learn and the more likely it is that they will graduate.
We use six factors from the 2012-2013 academic year to assess a school's commitment to instruction. Class size has two components: the proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students (30 percent of the faculty resources score) and the proportion with 50 or more students (10 percent of the score).
In our model, a school benefits more for having a large proportion of classes with fewer than 20 students and a small proportion of large classes.
Faculty salary (35 percent) is the average faculty pay, plus benefits, during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years, adjusted for regional differences in the cost of living (using indexes from the consulting firm Runzheimer International).
We also weigh the proportion of professors with the highest terminal degree in their fields (15 percent), the student-faculty ratio (5 percent) and the proportion of faculty who are full time (5 percent).
Student selectivity (12.5 percent): A school's academic atmosphere is determined in part by the abilities and ambitions of the student body.
We therefore factor in test scores of enrollees on both the Critical Reading and Math portions of the SAT and the Composite ACT score (65 percent of the selectivity score); the proportion of enrolled freshmen who graduated in the top 25 percent of their high school classes (25 percent); and the acceptance rate, or the ratio of students admitted to applicants (10 percent). The data are for the fall 2012 entering class.
This is a change from the previous, 2013 edition of the HBCU rankings, when student selectivity was weighted at 15.0 percent. In addition, the weights of two components of student selectivity changed. In the 2013 edition of the HBCU rankings, the SAT and the Composite ACT score was weighted at 50 percent of student selectivity and the high school class standing was weighted at 40 percent.
U.S. News believes that using both SAT and ACT test scores for all students who submitted test scores improves the methodology since it's a much more comprehensive measure and a better way to compare the entire entering class between schools.
Financial resources (10 percent): Generous per-student spending indicates that a college can offer a wide variety of programs and services. U.S. News measures financial resources by using the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures in the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.
Spending on sports, dorms and hospitals doesn't count; we only consider the part of a school's budget that goes toward educating students.