U.S. News to Collect More Data From Colleges

U.S. News hopes to publish new data on college graduation rates, college costs, and connectivity.

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Later in March, U.S. News will begin collecting the statistical data that will be used for the 2013 edition of our Best Colleges rankings, which will be published later this year. We plan to collect and hope to publish information in three new areas: differential graduation rates based on income and race; data about the affordability of colleges; and information about each college's connectivity.

At U.S. News, we often hear feedback that we ought to collect and publish more information about how colleges and universities are serving their entire student populations. The Higher Education Opportunity Act, passed in 2009, requires that schools disclose the graduation rates of students who received a federal Pell grant, students who received a subsidized Stafford loan but not a Pell grant, and students who received neither.

These three separate graduation rates indicate if a college is successful in serving students from different income levels. While we will not include these new graduation rates in this year's ranking methodology, we may publish sub-lists of 2005 entering class data in the upcoming Best Colleges rankings. In future years, we may incorporate this information into the overall Best Colleges rankings, as many argue that graduation rates are an important outcome measure.

This information is not currently being collected by the Department of Education. However, the federal government does collect and publish a wide range of data from colleges and universities, accessible via College Navigator. At U.S. News, we hope to use some of the data directly from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to supplement the information from our own surveys. NCES collects and publishes information about graduation rates by race, the net price of attending each college by family income levels for those receiving financial aid, average loan size, and the number of degrees awarded per student. These are all measures that speak to the affordability of a school and how well it helps its students be successful.

Lastly, we have added a number of questions to our survey about the ways in which colleges are using technology—including computer accessibility, wireless Internet, interactive digital workspaces, technical support staff, and online engagement—to connect with their students. From this information, prospective students will be able to determine the sophistication of each college's online infrastructure and the ways in which schools employ technology in the classroom.

The U.S. News Best Colleges statistical surveys are constantly evolving, as we add questions to collect new information and remove those that are now out of date. We would like to thank all the colleges that participate in our data collection, as we understand that these surveys are time consuming to complete. We appreciate the effort to provide U.S. News and our readers with the most accurate information possible.