Special Report

The 20 Best Colleges in America


To determine the best colleges in America, 24/7 Wall St. created an index of three measures: acceptance rate, average earnings 10 years after enrollment, and median debt at graduation. We normalized the measure using min-max normalization and each was given equal weighting. We only considered four-year, degree-granting postsecondary U.S. institutions.

1. Acceptance rate: the percentage of applicants admitted to each institution. This was calculated using admission and application data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for the 2018-2019 school year. Schools with a lower acceptance rate were ranked higher in our index.

2. Average earnings are for students working and not enrolled 10 years after entry. Higher earnings were scored higher in our index. Earnings after attendance data came from the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) College Scorecard program for the most recent year and includes those who graduated from these institutions as well as those who did not.

3. Median debt for those who have completed their degrees at a particular institution. Data came from the U.S Department of Education’s College Scorecard and is for fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Higher debt was penalized in our index.

We also looked at total attendance (undergraduate and graduate), net price, graduation rate, and geographic information from the NCES College Navigator program. Net Price refers to the total annual cost of attendance as calculated by the NCES, based on tuition, housing and other fees, likelihood of receiving financial aid, etc. Each figure is for the most recent available for each institution. Tuition prices for various situations (in- or out-of-state, housing or commuting, etc.), as well as SAT / ACT percentiles, were also included from IPEDS for the 2018-2019 school year.

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