Top Colleges Methodology

Each prospective student seeks to find the best college for them, whatever their particular educational values or priorities might be. The OnlineColleges.com Top Colleges listing is an invaluable resource for those seeking the right fit. Providing comprehensive rankings derived from college and government data, more than 7,600 colleges from across the United States are ranked for the 2013-14 academic year in a variety of categories. All 50 states are represented in the rankings, allowing most users to find a postsecondary institution near them.

The Top Colleges report allows prospective students to sort colleges by a number of different factors, offering three separate lists to search through: Educational Quality, Economic Value and Flexible Offerings. Each list is provided in an easy-to-use format, and can be filtered by state, school type, tuition expense and institution type. This makes the Top Colleges listing a one-stop resource for those interested in pursuing higher education, enabling them to find exactly what they're looking for quickly and easily.

Education Quality

The quality of the education being provided is first and foremost in the minds of many prospective students. A higher education quality can result in more reputable degree programs, which can better prepare students for the workforce and increase a graduate's appeal to future employers. Utilizing government data for each college, these rankings are based on a number of factors, including:

  • Admission standards
  • Advanced subject teaching
  • Accreditation
  • Classroom size
  • Retention
  • Supplemental Editorial

The likelihood of graduating with practical skills and experience can be directly related to an institution's education quality.

Economic Value

Every student, regardless of their major, minor, SAT score or grade point average has to consider the economics associated with the college experience. This can relate to a number of different factors, from the availability of financial aid (e.g., student loans, scholarships) to tuition rates, to employment prospects and the economic environment upon graduation. These factors can relate to the postsecondary institution itself, as well as the surrounding area. Economic value rankings take a number of factors into account. These can include:

  • Unemployment rate in the surrounding state
  • Education quality
  • Amount of student loans taken per student
  • Enrollment costs
  • Dropout rate
  • Financial aid granted
  • Cost of tuition compared to the average school

Data and figures used to assemble economic value rankings are based on information provided by the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ultimately, each student aims to increase the educational bang for their buck, while earning a degree that can lead to profitable employment after they graduate. Using the Top Colleges listing cannot guarantee anything, but it can help prospective students educate themselves about economic factors in order to make informed decisions.

Flexible Offerings

Colleges offer a variety of programs and services outside the classroom, aimed at helping students handle everything from full-time employment to family responsibilities while they're enrolled in degree programs. These flexible offerings are included in the Top Colleges listing, which uses government data to highlight college programs that may include:

  • Distance learning opportunities
  • ROTC
  • ROTC Army
  • ROTC Navy
  • ROTC Air Force
  • Study abroad program
  • Weekend/evening courses
  • Remedial services
  • Academic career counseling
  • Employment services
  • Placement services
  • On-campus daycare

These programs can be a necessity for those who have responsibilities outside of studying for tests and turning in assignments. Learning about the availability of these flexible offerings can help prospective students make a decision concerning which college best suits their needs and interests.