Forbes America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking

Since 2008, the US business magazine Forbes has been running a national ranking list with „America’s Top Colleges“ together with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP). Part of this ranking is the America’s Best Value Colleges, for which Forbes has developed a new methodology since 2016. This ranking focuses on one question: Which university is worth the investment and offers the best price-performance ratio? Forbes and the CCAP have reviewed over 650 universities for this aspect: Major research universities, leading liberal art colleges, both private and public universities. The top 300 universities were ranked in the online America’s Best Value College ranking.

The America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking by Forbes: Methodology

Together with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), Forbes has collected data from a variety of sources to identify the universities with the best value for money. The methodology consists of a formula of five general categories and their percentage weightings divided by the tuition fees (gross):

Quality (35%) + risk of termination (15%) + duration of studies (15%) + alumni salary (25%) + alumni skills (10%) / gross tuition fees

The following categories are included in the ranking:

  • Quality (35%): Based on the Forbes Top Colleges Ranking of 2015 with the following methodology:
    • Student satisfaction (25%) with data from social media areas such as Facebook and RateMyProfessors.
    • Success after graduation (32.5%): Salaries (10%), Forbes America’s Leaders List (22.5%)
    • Debt of students (25%)
    • completion rate
    • Academic success of students (10%): Proportion of students with recognised scholarships (7.5%) and proportion of students continuing their studies with a PhD (2.5%)
  • Risk of termination (15%): Based on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPED)
    • Proportion of students who do not achieve their degree within six years. If, for example, 80% of a vintage achieves its degree within six years, then 20% remains, which are included in the „risk of termination“ factor.
  • Period of study / degree success (15%):
    • Forbes also looks at the IPEDS data for the average number of years students needing to graduate within six years. An excellent university has an average of four years, while a less successful university has an average of 5.7 years.
  • Alumni Container (25%): Based on data from PayScale and the U. S. Department of Education College Scorecard
    • Forbes uses its own mixed model to calculate mid-career earnings (income in the middle of a career, after ten years of work).
      • PayScale is the market leader in global income data, but this data is based on self-disclosure.
      • The College Scorecard is based on tax returns and obtains the data only from former students who have received state financial support.
  • Alumni Skills / Added value (10%): Based on a formula developed by Brookings for a ranking system that refers to the added value offered by a higher education institution.
    • The added value is the difference between the actual „mid-career“ income of the alumni and the estimated income based on student characteristics (education, race and ethnicity, family income) and the type of higher education institution (location of the university, level of degrees, etc.).

The categories listed above are divided by the university’s gross tuition fees. This refers to all fees that accrue when you visit the university (no cost of living). In the case of public universities, the different fees for „in-state“ and „out-state“ were taken into account: For example, if a college has 5% out-state students while another college has 25%, this will also affect the calculation of tuition fees. The data on tuition fees are also provided by the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System).

Extract from America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking

In this special ranking, more than 50 state universities will be represented in 2016. Seven public colleges dominate the top 10, such as the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Florida, the University of California, Los Angeles or the University of California, San Diego. These universities not only have a good reputation, they are also a „Great Deal“.

Top 10

  • 1. University of California, Berkeley
  • 2. Brigham Young University
  • 3. University of Florida
  • 4. University of California, Los Angeles
  • 5. University of California, San Diego
  • 6. Massachusettes Institute of Technology
  • 7. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • 8. Georgia Institute of Technology
  • 9. Harvard University
  • 10.University of California, Irvine

Evaluation of America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking

In contrast to many other rankings, the reputation of the university or its research intensity does not play a role in the Forbes ranking – which in this case leads to results that may come as a surprise at first glance: The Top Best Value Colleges are not private universities located on the east coast and founded before 1800. Here, it is the comparatively young and public institutions on the west coast that are particularly focused on the MINT-subjects, which score particularly well. First and foremost, the University of California System.

A positive aspect is the fact that the indicators primarily refer to the students themselves, either via Facebook or the RateMyProfessor platform. In addition, decisive factors such as indebtedness and future earning potential with regard to the amount of tuition fees are also taken into account. Factors that usually play no role at all in other rankings.

The ranking provides a general evaluation of the price-performance ratio of US universities. However, it does not make any concrete statements on the quality of teaching and research or on the quality of certain subject areas.

Website Forbes America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking: