What’s new in the 2018 U.S. News best colleges rankings

The 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings are now live. With schools evaluated on up to 15 measures of academic quality, these rankings can help prospective students and their parents compare nearly 1,400 U.S.-based colleges.

Below are details on the most significant changes U.S. News made for the 2018 edition of the Best Colleges rankings.

1. Inclusion of salary data: For the first time, U.S. News has published postgraduate salary data at both the school and major level for 1,000 schools. This information, which is collected and provided by PayScale, is meant to give prospective students and their families a better sense of how college students fare following graduation. The salary data were not factored into the rankings.

All readers can view school-level salary data on these profile pages. Specifically, they can see the median salary for alumni with 0-5 years of postgrad experience whose highest degree is a bachelor’s.

Subscribers to the U.S. News College Compass, which provides access to the complete rankings and data, can also see the median school-level salary for midcareer alumni — those who have 10-plus years of experience. In addition, Compass subscribers can see early career salary for alumni broken down by major for each of the 1,000 schools.

Separately, U.S. News revised its statistical survey questions to start collecting data on postgraduate employment and salaries of 2015-2016 graduates of bachelor’s programs. These questions closely align with ones that the National Association of Colleges and Employers ask.

Nearly 300 schools responded to these questions, and their 2015-2016 graduates’ employment and salary data are published on usnews.com for Compass subscribers. Like the PayScale information, these data did not factor into the rankings.

2. Economic diversity tables include Pell Grant data for more schools: The Economic Diversity lists now use Pell Grant statistics that schools report directly to U.S. News in cases when applicable data were not available through the Department of Education. This enabled U.S. News to calculate the percentage of undergraduates receiving Pell Grants for a larger number of schools.

3. Methodology change for Best National Universities rankings: For National Universities only, U.S. News included in its graduation rate performance analysis the proportion of science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — degrees out of the total degrees granted.

This was done to better reflect research showing that students in STEM fields generally graduate at lower rates compared with those in other majors. Including STEM made the graduation rate model more accurate. As in previous years, the graduation rates predicted by U.S. News are compared with schools’ actual six-year graduation rates as a ranking factor.

U.S News used the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s STEM Designated Degree Program list to determine which degrees were considered STEM. The list included a wide variety of degrees in general STEM areas, such as biology and engineering, as well as specific STEM degree tracks in nontraditional STEM fields, such as business statistics and digital communication and media.

In addition, U.S. News made much more extensive use of data from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to validate the six-year graduation rates schools reported to U.S. News. U.S. News no longer uses National Collegiate Athletic Association graduation rate data to cross-check the graduation rate data schools report to U.S. News.

[Learn how to use the Best Colleges rankings wisely.]

4. Methodology change for Best Colleges for Veterans rankings: In this year’s Best Colleges for Veterans rankings, U.S. News added a factor for schools to be eligible for this ranking. An institution must have enrolled a minimum of 20 veterans and active service members, or a critical mass, in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Previously to be eligible for this list, a school needed 20 or more students who used GI Bill benefits. As a result of this methodology change, fewer schools are ranked in the 2018 Best Colleges for Veterans rankings.

5. More information on standardized tests for schools: How schools use standardized tests in admissions is more fully differentiated in schools’ profile pages on the U.S. News website.

For example, school profile pages now display self-reported data on whether schools require the SAT or ACT, are test-flexible, test-optional or test-blind. This additional information provides important data to prospective students and their parents about schools’ standardized-test policies.

[Read FAQs about the Best Colleges rankings.]

6. Expanded data for specialized institutions: More information is now published on specialized institutions that offer most or all of their degrees in fine arts, performing arts, business or engineering.

For example, engineering schools now display in U.S. News’ searchable directory as being “more selective,” “least selective,” etc., based on how their entering class admissions statistics compare with the aggregate of all other specialized and nonspecialized schools that U.S. News ranks.

More from U.S. News

See the 2018 Best National Universities

See the 2018 Best Liberal Arts Colleges

How U.S. News Calculated the 2018 Best Colleges Rankings

What’s New in the 2018 U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings originally appeared on usnews.com

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