Deciding what school to attend is an important decision with lasting effects on a student’s future, but it can be difficult to know where to start with so much information available online. aims to be a comprehensive, unbiased resource to help students determine which schools are best suited to their needs.

Our Team

The team responsible for school rankings is made up of members of our data science and product management teams — this team operates independently from the editorial team and is free from editorial influence.

Our Data

To create our 2024 rankings, we pulled the most current information from the U.S. News & World Report,, and other pertinent ranking sites. We also pulled information from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, the National Center of Education Statistics’ College Navigator, College Board, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All data was reviewed by our internal teams and multiple quality assurance checks were conducted before publication.

Our Ranking Process

We followed the following three-step process for each page from our best colleges and online colleges per state to our best degree-specific pages.

Step 1: We created a comprehensive list of nonprofit and accredited colleges and universities.

At we believe that nonprofit colleges are more likely to have the best programs. While it doesn’t guarantee a high-quality education, a nonprofit college is more likely to be focused on promoting its reputation as a research and education leader than with profit margins.

Every university is regionally accredited; its program meets quality standards set by a private nongovernmental organization. This helps guarantee that future employers — and if you choose to pursue advanced education, your future college — will honor your degree as legitimate.

Step 2: We aggregated rankings from reputable publications to compare the best.

After we recently surveyed students and parents from across the country, we learned that a key component of their college search is reviewing multiple college rankings websites, including U.S. News & World Report and, among other niche sites. Students and parents reported spending hours comparing these lists and still not feeling satisfied with having all of the information. So, we compared our comprehensive list of nonprofit, accredited schools to a list of aggregated rankings from these reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report. Schools that consistently rank highly across multiple publications have a higher Intelligent Score.

Step 3: We evaluated each of the top schools on the four most important factors for students.

The best school for each student is personal and depends on a number of factors — many of which are about more than just academics. From our work with students, we determined the four most important decision-making factors for students selecting a school. Those include:

Academic Quality

To evaluate academic rigor, we compared the overall competitiveness of the school by comparing a school’s admission rate to its enrollment rate. We also compared retention rates — the rate of students who return after their first year — for each school to evaluate its effectiveness at keeping students enrolled.

Graduation Rate

We look at how active each program is, including factors like how many students are currently enrolled, how well-represented men and women are in each program, and the graduation rate. This provides insight into the success of each school or program’s success at attracting a diverse student body, and how successful each school is at helping students graduate.

Cost and ROI

We evaluate the relative total cost of each program. Based on the average cost per credit at each university, we calculate an estimated total cost of attendance. Universities that charge less than their competitors earn more points here.

To determine the cost of the program, we look at the number of credits it would take to complete each program as well as the average cost per credit. While the average cost sometimes depends on the particular program within a university, and whether the university charges out-of-state tuition, this provides a relative figure to compare the potential return on investment for each degree.

NOTE: Programs with fewer credit hours, and lower tuition-per-credit rates tend to rank higher than programs with higher tuition-per-credit rates, even if they require fewer overall credits for graduation.

To determine return on investment (ROI), we look at how easy it would be to earn back the cost of each degree program. We calculate the average weekly wages of the occupations that a particular degree program prepares for versus the cost of the program. We focus on programs that can be paid off in a timely manner.

Student Resources

We also evaluated each school on the educational resources available to students, including online resources for online-only programs and resources like libraries and other available student services provided for on-campus programs. Schools with more educational resources available to students score higher.

Intelligent Scoring

All schools that made our 2024 lists are provided with an Intelligent Score, on a scale of 0 to 100. We arrived at these rankings by combining the scores from the four decision-making factors: Academic quality, graduation rate, cost and ROI, and student resources. Our top picks are highly-regarded, affordable, and offer the tools and resources students need to successfully graduate and excel in their fields.