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.
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.
Alumni giving rate (5 percent): The average percentage of living alumni with bachelor's degrees who gave to their school during 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 is an indirect measure of student satisfaction.
To arrive at a school's rank, we first calculated the weighted sum of its scores. The final scores were rescaled: The top school in each category was assigned a value of 100, and the other schools' weighted scores were calculated as a proportion of that top score.
Final scores for each ranked school were rounded to the nearest whole number and ranked in descending order. Schools that received the same rank are tied and are listed in alphabetical order.
Most of the data come from the colleges – and U.S. News takes pains to ensure their accuracy. We obtained missing data from sources such as the American Association of University Professors, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Council for Aid to Education and the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics.
Estimates, which are never published by U.S. News, may be used when schools fail to report particular data points. Missing data are reported as N/A in the ranking tables.
U.S. News believes that because some schools are unable to report key educational characteristics or because they have certain other characteristics, it would be unfair to try to compare them statistically with the other schools that are part of the rankings.
We have created a group of Unranked HBCUs that are listed alphabetically at the bottom of the HBCU rankings table. Those institutions that have indicated that they don't use the SAT or ACT in admissions decisions for first-time, first-year, degree-seeking applicants are not ranked.
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