Morse Code: Inside the College Rankings

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Which Highly Ranked Universities Operate Most Efficiently?

December 6, 2012 RSS Feed Print

In these times of tight or reduced state budgets, it's important for some colleges to efficiently spend their limited resources in order to produce the highest possible educational quality. U.S. News has developed an exclusive new list showing which schools are able to produce the highest educational quality, as determined by their place in our Best Colleges rankings, but spend relatively less money to achieve that quality.

U.S. News measures financial resources by taking into account how much a school spends per student on instruction, research, student services, and related educational expenditures. Financial resources has a 10 percent weight in the Best Colleges ranking methodology.

The new list is based on operating efficiency, defined as a school's 2011 fiscal year financial resources per student divided by its overall score (the basis U.S. News uses to determine its overall numerical rank) in the 2013 Best Colleges rankings. This calculation reveals how much each school is spending to achieve one point in the overall score and its position in the rankings.

The less a school is spending relative to its ranking, the more efficient it is in producing a quality education among its peers.

How should these results be interpreted? Schools that are featured on this list are doing a good job in managing their financial resources relative to other schools that may have larger state funding, higher tuition, or larger endowments. Many of these schools are likely to be more affordable in terms of tuition relative to others in their ranking category, since almost all of them are public universities.

Only schools that were numerically ranked in the top half of their ranking category in the Best Colleges 2013 rankings were included in this analysis. Additionally, only the categories that had a significant proportion of both public and private universities were considered.

The tables below show the universities that score highest on the operating efficiency measure. These are the schools that are providing a high quality education while spending relatively less than their peers to achieve it. Note: A school's overall rank is partly based on a two-year average of expenditures per student; the financial resources figures displayed below reflect only the most recent year.

National Universities

School name (state) U.S. News National Universities rank Financial resources per student (FY 2011)
Florida State University 97 $17,731
Brigham Young University--Provo (UT) 68 $20,441
Miami University--Oxford (OH) 89 $19,091
University of Alabama 77 $20,288
College of William and Mary (VA) 33 $27,572
Colorado School of Mines 77 $21,417
University of Missouri 97 $21,226
Binghamton University--SUNY (NY) 89 $22,181
Indiana University--Bloomington 83 $22,806
Ohio University 131 $18,983
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--Newark 115 $20,801
University of Georgia 63 $27,028
Clemson University (SC) 68 $26,293
University of South Carolina 115 $21,389
Virginia Tech 72 $26,261
Clark University (MA) 83 $25,073
Duquesne University (PA) 120 $21,216
University of Oregon 115 $21,749
Texas Christian University 92 $24,486
Missouri University of Science & Technology 125 $21,044


Regional Universities (North)

School name (state) U.S. News Regional Universities (North) rank Financial resources per student (FY 2011)
SUNY--Geneseo (NY) 10 $15,383
Salisbury University (MD) 47 $10,497
Towson University (MD) 44 $12,018
College of New Jersey 6 $22,625
University of Scranton (PA) 10 $20,059


Regional Universities (South)

School name (state) U.S. News Regional Universities (South) rank Financial resources per student (FY 2011)
James Madison University (VA) 6 $13,480
Appalachian State University (NC) 10 $13,576
University of Mary Washington (VA) 16 $13,338
College of Charleston (SC) 11 $14,253
Belmont University (TN) 7 $16,894


Regional Universities (West)

School name (state) U.S. News Regional Universities (West) rank Financial resources per student (FY 2011)
California Polytechnic State University--San Luis Obispo 6 $16,159
California State University--Long Beach 28 $11,561
Western Washington University 27 $12,547
California State University--Fullerton 31 $11,855
Gonzaga University (WA) 4 $21,794


Regional Universities (Midwest)

School name (state) U.S. News Regional Universities (Midwest) rank Financial resources per student (FY 2011)
Truman State University (MO) 8 $12,002
University of Wisconsin--La Crosse 24 $11,318
University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire 31 $12,078
University of Wisconsin--Whitewater 49 $10,951
Drake University (IA) 3 $20,029

The financial resources per student data above are correct as of Dec. 6, 2012.

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Morse Code: Inside the College Rankings

Robert Morse is director of data research for U.S.News & World Report and has worked at the company since 1976. He develops the methodologies and surveys for the Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools annual rankings, keeping an eye on higher-education trends to make sure the rankings offer prospective students the best analysis available. Morse Code provides deeper insights into the methodologies and is a forum for commentary and analysis of college, grad, and other rankings.


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