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NCSA Power Rankings Methodology


What are NCSA Power Rankings?

NCSA Power Rankings recognize the “Best Schools for Student-Athletes.” Unlike traditional power rankings that evaluate schools solely on athletic performance, NCSA Power Rankings incorporate the college desirability among current student-athletes, academic performance and affordability, to help families find the right college fit.

Colleges and universities are ranked overall and broken out by division and sport into the Top 50 or Top 100 schools for 2019.


What factors determine a school’s NCSA Power Ranking?

NCSA Power Rankings evaluate and colleges and universities on important criteria that families consider when looking at potential schools. We understand there’s a lot to think about when creating a target list of schools –athletics, academics, location, affordability.

In order to offer athletes and families comprehensive lists of the best NCAA and NAIA programs across the country, the NCSA Power Rankings evaluate colleges and universities according the following four metrics:

  • NCSA Favorites — This is perhaps the most robust measure of a college team’s popularity with current high school-age student-athletes. Compiled NCSA Favorites data is based on the college-search activity of over 2 million student-athletes in NCSA’s recruiting network. A school’s number of favorites reflects the number of student-athletes who have added that school as a school of interest on the NCSA recruiting network.
  • U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges —The annual U.S. News Best Colleges rankings focus strictly on academic excellence. Schools are ranked based on 16 measures of academic quality, with a strong emphasis placed on student outcomes, like graduation and retention rates.
  • IPEDS Graduation Rate— The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is an annual data collection distributed by the Postsecondary Branch of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a non-partisan center within the Institute of Education Sciences under the U.S. Department of Education. Graduation rates are collected at the institutional level and are reflective of full-time, first-time, degree-/certificate-seeking students who started and finished at the same institution.
  • IPEDS Average Cost After Aid – The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) also analyzes average cost after aid, or “Institutional Net Price.” Institutional net price is defined as “the average yearly price actually charged to first-time, full-time undergraduate students receiving student aid at an institution of higher education after deducting such aid.”


How are NCSA Power Rankings calculated?

NCSA Power Rankings are calculated through a proprietary methodology using NCSA Favorites data, general academic ranking based off of U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, IPEDS graduation rate and IPEDS average cost after aid. Each data set was individually ranked and weighted as follows:

  • 30% U.S. News Ranking
  • 30% Graduation Rate Ranking
  • 30% NCSA Favorites
  • 10% Avg. Cost After Aid Ranking

These metrics are combined to establish a final score for each college or university. Final scores are then ranked overall and sorted by sport and NCAA or NAIA division to determine a school’s NCSA Power Ranking.

NCSA Power Ranking ties are eliminated by valuing institutions with the most NCSA Favorites highest, followed by the highest U.S. News general ranking, schools with the highest graduation rate ranking and finally schools with the lowest average cost after aid.

About the data:

NCSA Favorites are based on the behavior of student-athletes on the NCSA platform. When a student-athlete is interested in a college or university, they “favorite” the institution’s athletic program as one they’d most like to attend. This raw data collected and used to quantify a school’s desirability according to today’s student-athletes. “Favorites” for individual athletic programs are used when creating sports-specific lists, while an institution’s “favorites” are combined to include all athletic programs when rankings schools overall.

U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges is one of the most widely recognized and authoritative rankings of colleges and universities. Institutions are measured on a variety of factors including graduation and retention rates, graduation rate performance, faculty resources, financial resources, student excellence, standardized tests, high school class standing and alumni giving. New this year, U.S. News factored a school's success at promoting social mobility by graduating students who received federal Pell Grants.

U.S. News categories are based on the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education's Basic Classification 2015 Update, which is the most widely accepted classification system in higher education. U.S. News collapses 12 of the Carnegie categories into four: National UniversitiesNational Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges. The Regional Universities and Colleges are placed into one of four geographic categories: North, South, Midwest and West.

NCSA Power Rankings rank all academic institutions – universities and colleges – together into overall, division and/or sports specific lists. To appropriately value each institution, NCSA assigns scores to each 2019 U.S. News and World Report Best College or University and then weights the institutional categories as follows:

  • National Universities - 100%.
  • National Liberal Arts Colleges - 85%
  • Regional Universities - 70%
  • Regional Colleges - 55%

Institutions are then ranked based on weighted adjustments and assigned a general academic ranking.

IPEDS graduation rates are determined by collecting the number of students enrolled in a cohort year and the number in that cohort graduating within different lengths of time. These numbers are then used to calculate graduation rates by dividing the number of students who completed their program within a specific percentage of normal time to completion by the number of students in the entering cohort (adjusted).

Because graduation rates are published several years after students entered their program, they are not reflective of the current entering student population. NCSA uses the most current IDEDS data, incorporating the 2017 IPEDS graduation rates into our 2019 NCSA Power Rankings.

IPEDS average cost after aid is generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government or institutional grant and scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. Total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees (lower for in-district or in-state for public institutions), books and supplies and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.

Essentially, net price moves beyond an institution’s “sticker price” and provides students and families with an idea of how much a first-time, full-time undergraduate student who was awarded aid pays to attend a particular institution after grant or scholarship aid is subtracted from the published cost of attendance. It’s important to note that net price is not just tuition minus aid and reward – it includes tuition, plus other costs and then subtracts the aid and reward. For this reason, there are 56 schools listed on the NCSA Power Rankings that have a net price (or average cost after aid) that is higher than the tuition cost.

Like IPEDS graduation rates, NCSA uses the most current 2017 IDEDS data.


Why would a school not be on the NCSA Power Rankings list?

A school would not be included in the NCSA Power Rankings if it is not included in one of the four data sets – NCSA Favorites, U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges, IPEDS graduation rates or IPEDS average cost after aid – or if it does not fall within the Top 100 or Top 50 NCSA Power Rankings.

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