Everyone’s college experience is different. But some are better than others.

Here at OSR we focus on Online Programs, which are just starting to blow up. Some schools have figured out how flexible and innovative online education can be – other schools are still trying to catch up.

So how do we measure an online program’s quality?

You want to get straight to the information – real numbers based on hard data.

So we stick to statistics. We developed a system to sum up a college’s merit based on seven key stats. We pulled those stats from reputable sources, factored them together, and developed our ranking method.

Here’s a breakdown of how we rank programs and where we get our information:

-Online Programs Quality 20%

How good are the programs? This is a combination of the school’s ability to engage students and the faculty’s credentials. It’s important to consider how well a school uses the online format to teach. If a school can’t translate their course materials onto the internet, then you can’t learn anything from the class – no matter how good the professors are. We pull this info from U.S. News and World Report.

-Earnings Potential 10%

How much can you make with a degree from this school? The best indicator of how well a college prepares its students is to look at the alumni. How much are they making now? Earning potential is the median salary for alumni at least ten years out of school. We take this info from Payscale.

-Student Satisfaction 20%

How do alumni feel about their experience? We take their reviews from sites like Rate My Professors and Student Review to find out what they thought of the faculty, courses, and student experience at the school. But to take it a step further, a part of that Student Satisfaction score factors in how many alumni say the work they’re doing with their degree makes the world a better place.

-Online Presence 20%

Is the school comfortable with online education? We counted how many courses the school offers online, with special props if a whole degree program is online.

-Affordability 10%

How much will it cost? We take prices from the National Center for Education Statistics on in- and out-of-state tuition from the past year.

-Acceptance 10%

How competitive is the school? This combines the acceptance rate and average SAT scores of accepted students, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.

-Retention 10%

How many people stay? This stat represents how many students finished their first year at a college and came back for a second. It’s similar to Satisfaction, but it also hints at how well a college supports its students.


There are some things you should know when interpreting these rankings.

First, endorsement. OSR is editorially independent from any marketing efforts. No school will ever pay for their position in a ranking. The only way a school can influence the outcome of a ranking is through the quality of its programs.

Second, data. OSR uses publicly available data, which presents some limitations. Data on graduation rates, acceptance, and retention for individual degrees are not available publicly. The numbers OSR uses are from mandatory reports from each school as a whole. We believe this information is still vital for understanding the quality of a program. Schools that perform well overall tend to represent that quality over all of their degrees. If a program is new or was recently revamped, we will note it in the description.

A final word:

We know the best colleges according to these seven data points. They are authoritative and heavily researched.

But ultimately you are the final judge.

Consider several programs before you pick a school. Reach out to the staff, professors, and alumni to get a feel for the individual community each school fosters.

OSR is a tool that will help get you where you need to be. The rest is up to you.