High school students thinking about colleges must weigh an almost overwhelming amount of information. The factors that go into choosing a college range from the nearly immeasurable – What school is right for me? – to the mundane – How much does it cost?
And students must sift all sorts of advice from friends, parents, relatives, teachers and guidance counselors. Then there are recruitment letters and lists upon lists of the majors and extracurricular programs offered at each school.
Another significant source of input are lists by publications such as Money magazine and U.S. News & World Report that rank the nation’s colleges based on a variety of factors. In fact, Money ranks a Maine college, Maine Maritime Academy, as the top public college in the United States. U.S. News ranks the academy as the seventh best regional college in the North. The Castine-based college will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2016.
These rankings take into account a variety of data, such as tuition costs, graduation rates, retention and teacher-student ratios, to quantify the country’s top colleges. Money magazine, for example, weighs data in three broad categories: quality of education, affordability and outcomes.
Under quality of education, Money considers the six-year graduation rate, the standardized test scores of entering freshmen, the percentage of accepted students who enroll, faculty-student ratio, and scores on RateMyProfessor.com.
Money considers affordability to be the net price of a degree, which combines tuition, the average amount of financial assistance, and the average amount of time required to obtain a degree. The magazine also weighs expected debt upon graduation, student loan default risks, and affordability for low- and moderate-income students.
In the final category, outcomes, Money looks at the average earnings of graduates, both overall and by major.
U.S. News weighs each college’s reputation based on surveys of top academics; retention, which is the percentage of students who continue beyond their freshman year; faculty resources, which includes class size and faculty salaries; the standardized test scores and class ranks of admitted students; financial resources for students; and graduation rates.
U.S. News also ranked Maine Maritime Academy as the third best public college among regional colleges in the North (a region that includes northeastern states from Maryland to Maine) and said it had one of the best undergraduate engineering programs.
Of course, rankings are just one of many tools students and their parents can use when making college decisions. Choosing a college is more than just a decision about return on investment. But examining quantitative assessments can provide some hard data to combine with campus visits, interviews with students and professors and a general sense of whether a particular college is a good fit.
Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), is a co-educational, public college on the coast of Maine, offering 18 degree programs in engineering, business, science, and transportation.
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