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 2021.
NCSA Power Rankings evaluate colleges and universities using 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, including—athletics, academics, location and affordability.
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 to the following four metrics:
NCSA Power Rankings are calculated through a proprietary methodology using NCSA Favorites data, general academic rankings from U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges. and the U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard’s graduation rates and average cost after aid. Each data set was individually ranked and weighted as follows:
These metrics are combined to establish a final score for each college or university. Final scores are then ranked overall and can be sorted by sport and NCAA or NAIA division to determine a school’s NCSA Power Ranking.
NCSA Power Ranking ties are broken by valuing institutions with the most NCSA Favorites highest, followed by the U.S. News & World Report ranking, then the highest graduation rate ranking and finally schools with the lowest average cost after aid.
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 join. This raw data is collected and used to quantify a school’s desirability according to today’s student-athletes. Favorites for individual athletic programs are used when creating sport-specific lists, while an institution’s total Favorites for all athletic programs are used when ranking 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 in 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 Carnegie Classification 2018 Update, which is the most widely accepted classification system in higher education. U.S. News collapses 12 of the Carnegie categories into four: National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges. Regional Universities and Regional 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 sport-specific lists. To appropriately value each institution, NCSA assigns scores to each 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best College or University and then weighs the institutional categories as follows:
Institutions are then ranked based on weighted adjustments and assigned a general academic ranking.
College Scorecard graduation rates are presented differently for degree granting and non-degree granting schools.
The graduation rate for degree granting schools is the proportion of entering students that graduated at the school within 8 years of entry, regardless of their full-time/part-time status or prior postsecondary experience. Graduation rate is measured 8 years after entry, irrespective of the award sought or award obtained.
The graduation rate for non-degree granting schools is the proportion of full-time, first-time students that have graduated at the same school where they started college within 200% of normal program completion time (e.g., within 8 years for a bachelor’s degree, or within 18 months for a 9-month certificate).
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 U.S. Department of Education data, incorporating the 2018 College Scorecard graduation rates into our 2021 NCSA Power Rankings.
College Scorecard average cost after aid (or “Average Annual Cost”) is calculated by adding the advertised price for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and the average living costs at the school (on-campus, off-campus not with family and off-campus with family) and subtracting the average grant and/or scholarship aid (e.g., Pell grants, school-based grants, merit scholarships). Net price is calculated as the average over all full-time, first-time students who receive federal financial aid and may not reflect a specific student’s annual costs. For public schools, this is only the average cost for in-state students. Negative cost values indicate that the average grant/scholarship aid exceeded the cost of attendance.
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.
NCSA uses the most current U.S. Department of Education data, which for Average Cost After Aid is from 2019.
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, or U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard—or if it does not fall within the Top 100 or Top 50 NCSA Power Rankings.