By most counts, there are roughly 2,475 accredited four-year colleges and universities in the US. To be among the Top 177 on The Alumni Factor list puts each of these schools in the rarified top 7% of all four-year colleges. Correspondingly, less than 5% of all college-bound US high school seniors will spend their undergraduate years at one of these institutions. Therefore, do not draw the tempting conclusion that a school rated 177th overall or in any one attribute does “poorly.” It is likely better than 93% of all colleges across the country!
To develop our lists, we have evaluated these schools based on their performance against 15 attributes, across six broad criteria, as rated by their alumni:
- Quality of the College Experience (5 measures)
- Assessments of Value for Money and Willingness to Recommend (3 measures)
- Financial Success of graduates (4 measures)
- Overall Happiness of graduates (1 measure)
- The percent of alumni who donate to each college annually (1 measure)
- The graduation rate of each college (1 measure)
Overall, there are 15 individual measures for each school used to determine its overall ranking. Each measure is weighted equally. Graduate input is the direct source for 13 of the 15 attributes. The only attributes not taken directly from alumni input are the alumni giving percentage and the college’s graduation rate. A key point about our ranking is that, unlike most other lists, we combine data from all schools – national universities, liberal arts colleges and regional universities – when providing our overall Alumni Factor ranking. We do this to allow for comparisons across all colleges, since this is the way prospective students actually evaluate schools. Therefore, when comparing our comprehensive Alumni Factor ranking to other rankings, readers may notice that many schools achieve a different ranking than has typically been seen for that school (for example, a school that is ranked 10th on other lists may be 30th in The Alumni Factor ranking because the pool of comparison is larger). We do, however, additionally show rankings by college type to allow for that direct comparison. In this chapter readers will find the ranking for each type of school (national universities, liberal arts colleges and regional universities). This allows readers to compare schools of like size and purpose. We also provide our overall Alumni Factor ranking, in which we put all the schools together and rank them as one group from 1 to 177. This list is the best way to compare some of the larger national universities to the smaller liberal arts schools and the regional schools. Individual school profiles will show where a school falls on both types of rankings.
Throughout the report we include other data for each college that, while not used to calculate the ranking, is helpful in understanding the overall performance of a college as judged by its graduates. These include: Spiritual Development, political and social views, and other insights that may be helpful in fully understanding the type of graduate each college produces. Most importantly, we provide the complete ranking of the 177 colleges for every one of the attributes we measure. This way,
readers can judge colleges on whichever attribute or attributes they individually deem most important.