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Forbes America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking

This has been leading since 2008 US business magazine Forbes together with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) a national ranking with "America’s Top Colleges". Part of this ranking is the so-called "America’s Best Value Colleges", for which Forbes has been one since 2016 new methodology has developed. In this ranking, one question is in the foreground: which university is worth the investment and offers the best price-performance ratio? Forbes and the CCAP have over 650 universities Checked for this aspect: Large research universities, leading liberal art colleges, both private and public universities. The best 300 universities received a placement in the "America’s Best Value College" ranking published online.

Forbes America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking: Methodology

© Chantal G.

The University of California Berkeley not only has an outstanding reputation: in fact, studying here is also worthwhile in financial terms!

Forbes worked with the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) to collect data from various sources to identify the universities with the best value for money. The methodology consists of one Formula from five general categories and their percentage weightings divided by the tuition fees (gross):

Quality (35%) + risk of dropping out (15%) + duration of study (15%) + alumni salaries (25%) + alumni skills (10%) / gross tuition fees

The following categories are included in the ranking:

  • Quality (35%): Based on the Forbes Top Colleges Ranking 2015 using 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%)
    • Student debt (25%)
    • Graduation rate
    • Academic success of the students (10%): Proportion of students with recognized scholarships (7.5%) and proportion of students who completed their studies with a Ph.D. continue (2.5%)
  • Cancellation risk (15%): Based on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPED)
    • Proportion of students who do not graduate within six years. If, for example, 80% of a year graduate within six years, 20% remain, which is included in the “risk of dropping out” factor.
  • Study time / degree success (15%):
    • Forbes also looks at the IPEDS data for the average number of years it takes students who graduate within six years to graduate. An excellent university has an average of four years, a less successful university, for example, an average of 5.7 years.
  • Alumni salaries (25%): Based on data from PayScale and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard
    • Forbes uses its own mixed model to calculate the “mid-career earnings” (income in the middle of the career, after ten years of work).
      • PayScale is the market leader in global income data, but this data is self-reported.
      • The College Scorecard is based on tax returns and only obtains data from former students who have received government funding.
  • Alumni skills / added value (10%): Based on a formula developed by Brookings for a ranking system that relates to the added value that a university offers.
    • The added value is the difference between the actual "mid-career" income of the alumni and the estimated income based on student characteristics (educational background, race and ethnicity, family income) and the type of university (location of the university, level of degrees, etc.)

The categories listed above are divided by the gross tuition fees of the university. This includes all fees that are incurred when attending 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 one college has 5% out-state students while another has 25%, this will also influence the calculation of the tuition fees. The data on the tuition fees are also provided by the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System).

Extract from America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking

In this particular ranking are in 2018 more than 50 state universities represented. Seven public colleges dominate the top 10, such as the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, Los Angeles or the University of California, San Diego. These universities not only have a good reputation, they are one too "Great Deal".

© Stefan T.

Also one of the best in the Forbes Best Value Colleges Ranking: UC San Diego.

Top 10

College Contact's partner universities in the top 100

Further College Contact partner universities in the ranking

Rating of America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking

In contrast to many other rankings, the respective 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 surprise at first glance: The top best value colleges are not the private ones Universities located on the east coast and founded before 1800. Here it is comparatively young and public institutions on the west coastwho mainly focus on the STEM subjects who do particularly well. First and foremost: The University of California System.

To be assessed positively is the fact that the Indicators primarily relate to studentsand they themselves have their say, be it via Facebook or the RateMyProfessor platform. Decisive factors such as indebtedness and future earning potential are also taken into account in relation to the amount of the tuition fees. Factors that generally do not play a role at all in other rankings.

The ranking makes a general assessment of the price-performance ratio of US universities. However, it does not make specific statements about the quality of teaching and research or about the quality of certain subject areas.

Forbes America’s Best Value Colleges Ranking website:


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