We rank our accounting programs based on a weighted consideration of certain factors. Our methodology considers a school’s affordability as one category. This category is weighted by 40%, with subfactors creating that 40%. Net price and financial aid, for instance, account for 40% of the category’s weight, and student loan default rate makes up 20%.
We also consider quality, which represents 35% of a school’s final score, and divide this category into three factors. Student-to-faculty ratio and retention rate account for 40% each, while the number of available programs make up 20% of the category’s score. These details indicate whether or not programs keep students engaged and satisfied.
Student success ranks as our third category and accounts for 35% of a school’s final score. For this category, we consider graduation rate and future earnings since high numbers in both areas verify educational competence within the program.
Our final consideration for these rankings involves online flexibility, which is weighted by 15%. The number of students who learn partially online represent 30% of this category’s weight, while the number of fully online learners represents the other 70%.
This formula is unique to our website and does not permit outside sources to influence rankings. Colleges and universities cannot earn higher rankings by offering payment.
The following sections explain our ranking factors in more detail and provide information on our sources. Students can use this information to find the accounting program that best suits their needs.
About the Data We Use
We heavily rely on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for our ranking data. This federal resource provides yearly reports on different aspects of education, as well as data tools for researching institutions. The organization’s information relates to early childhood, K-12, and postsecondary education. NCES also maintains the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for information specifically concerning higher education.
Through NCES, we gather information on net price, financial aid awards, student loan default rate, retention rate, student-to-faculty ratio, program availability, graduation rate, and online learning.
Our data also comes from Georgetown University, which is renowned for its unbiased research and holds Carnegie Classification. In particular, Georgetown offers the Center on Education and the Workforce, which gathers data and reports findings for topics like graduation rate, net price, student loan repayment, and school type. This information comes from reputable sources, like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Occupational Network, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
We primarily use Georgetown’s information on net present value (NPV) in our rankings. In general, referencing NPV helps learners determine if the time and money dedicated to earning a degree will be a solid investment. For this ranking, we focus on 20-year NPV statistics to give readers an indication of a degree’s long-term return on investment.
Our quality assurance team only includes schools that offer enough relevant data. We also update our rankings as our sources present new data. This scheduling provides our readers with the most current information possible when researching their accounting degree options.
A Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology
- Quality: 35%
- Affordability: 15%
- Online Flexibility: 15%
- Student Success: 35%
About Our Ranking Factors
Each of our ranking factors includes weighted subfactors, with more important concerns carrying higher percentages. For example, retention rate receives more weight than program number for the category addressing school quality. Quality and student success affect an institution’s score more than other factors since these aspects better indicate professional preparedness from the program.
We chose the following factors for our rankings due to their influence on learning experiences and outcomes. However, students should balance our rankings with their priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings weight it.
Subfactors for Quality
- Retention Rate: Retention rate represents the percentage of first-year students who remain with their original college or university for their sophomore year. A high retention rate implies that learners are satisfied with their education. Top schools’ retention rates may surpass 90%, while the retention rate from 2016-2017 for all institutions reached 81%. These rates can vary by institution type. For instance, private, for-profit institutions reflected a much lower retention rate during this time frame than public schools, according to NCES.
- Number of Programs Offered: Schools that offer a large number of programs can serve more students. This variety may come from concentrations, advanced degrees, dual degrees, and/or optional certificates. For example, concentrations or certificates in financial advising, auditing, and taxation prepare students for their career goals more specifically than general accounting degrees. Furthermore, departments that offer graduate degrees in accounting may attract more learners than institutions with only bachelor’s options.
- Student-to-Faculty Ratio: Student-to-faculty ratios illustrate how the number of students at a school compares to the number of faculty members. Colleges and universities with low ratios often offer students more personalized attention from faculty than institutions with higher ratios. Preferred ratios include 20 or fewer students for every faculty member.
Subfactors for Affordability
- Net Price: Net price refers to the cost of tuition, fees, and other educational expenses after applying financial aid. This factor affects a school’s affordability rating since the student must pay these costs with their own funds. High net prices can lead to economic hardships and postponed enrollment should learners fail to keep up with monthly tuition payments. For this reason, low net prices can increase schools’ rankings on our site.
- Financial Aid: Students can earn financial aid, including loans, grants, and scholarships, from sources like the government, schools, or private organizations. Employers may also offer tuition reimbursement opportunities. For this ranking, financial aid counts in two ways. Specifically, we consider the relation of financial aid packages to the cost of attendance and also the number of students who obtain financial aid. These factors, each worth 20% of the financial aid percentage, reflect a program’s financial accessibility.
- Loan Default Rate: A high loan default rate means graduates have a difficult time repaying their student loans. This difficulty could result from a high loan amount, unemployment, or low salaries. For this reason, we prioritize low student loan default rates. The average loan default rate in 2016 was 10.1% across the nation, but expectations for individual states vary. The institutions that earn the most points in this category boast loan default rates below these expectations.
Subfactors for Online Flexibility
- Percent of Graduate Students Enrolled Partially Online: Some schools offer hybrid programs, where students complete a portion of coursework online. These hybrid options may require on-campus classes, workshops, orientations, or labs. Large partially online populations indicate learning flexibility but may also imply that the college or university offers limited fully online opportunities.
- Percent of Graduate Students Enrolled Fully Online: Fully online students complete all coursework virtually, without any on-campus requirements. These programs deliver the highest level of learning flexibility, particularly if courses embrace asynchronous delivery. These factors allow learners to pursue fully online degrees at out-of-state schools, and working professionals can more easily fit coursework into their schedules. This delivery method may also decrease educational costs by eliminating room and board, meal plan fees, and traveling expenses.
Subfactors for Student Success
- 20-Year NPV: This number refers to the future value of a degree that a student pursues today. This information offers insight into the upcoming benefits of an accounting degree and the likelihood of success after graduation. Specifically, we consider these details at the 20-year mark. Our ranking methodology offers higher ratings for schools with a high 20-year NPV since the best investments offer a forthcoming profit.
- Graduation Rate: This rate concerns the percentage of students who complete a program at their initial institution. Schools may include a time limit with these rates, such as a four-year or six-year bachelor’s graduation rate. High graduation rates indicate learner satisfaction with an institution. Typical six-year graduation rates for first-year students in 2011 varied by institution type but often reached 50-70%.