U.S. News depends on the schools themselves to provide accurate and complete data for the Best Colleges rankings. Where it's possible, U.S. News cross checks reported data and fills in missing data using other public sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education. When a school has missing data, U.S. News does make estimates of that data based on what was reported for that data point by other schools in the same college ranking category. Those estimates are used in the rankings but are not published.
It's important to note that if a school does not provide data, it can have a significant impact on its rankings when the value of its actual data would have been greater than the estimate we used. Here is one example from the latest rankings:
U.S. News has determined that for two consecutive years we did not receive financial resource data for La Salle University that U.S. News used to compute the financial resources component of the U.S. News Best Colleges rankings. This omission impacted La Salle's ranking in the newly published 2012 edition of the Best Colleges rankings. U.S. News asks colleges for the same financial information that it annually reports to the U.S. Department of Education.
As a result of two consecutive years of not receiving La Salle's financial resource data, U.S. News made an estimate of the university's educational expenditures per student value, which is the sole basis used to calculate a school's financial resources, a component that accounts for 10 percent in the Best Colleges rankings methodology.
U.S. News won't recalculate La Salle's—or any other school's—overall rankings because of nonreporting. This estimate in the financial resources indicator was the primary reason why La Salle fell to 41st place in the 2012 Regional Universities—North rankings from 19th in the 2011 edition.
La Salle's Best Colleges numerical ranking in the 2012 edition would have been very close to its year ago ranking had U.S. News used its actual financial resources data instead of using an estimate.