How We Rank Social Work Programs

Last Updated: April 2020

We utilize a specialized, student-oriented methodology at to create our rankings. Our objective approach focuses on affordability, retention, and program appeal to provide social work students with useful data points and information.

Our rankings focus on each school's overall merit by weighing certain factors and subfactors. We pull our data from national databases and incorporate our findings into a unique formula created by our team. Prospective students can review our formula in detail below.

As part of our process, we focus on information we feel is most important and relevant for social work students searching for their ideal program. We understand that no methodology is perfect, but we aim to provide learners with a holistic view of the available programs. We also ensure that our rankings are data-driven and free of editorial influence.

About the Data We Use uses the most current datasets from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). As part of the Institute of Education Sciences, NCES conducts research to evaluate the status of education in the U.S. across colleges, universities, and technical or vocational schools. NCES is a primary information source for higher education in the country, conducting detailed surveys and research projects to collect and report useful data points.

Our quality assurance team evaluates all schools included in the datasets. We do not include schools missing a significant amount of data in our rankings, allowing us to ensure that our calculations remain as accurate and reliable as possible. We pulled all of our information in December 2019 to create the most relevant, up-to-date rankings.

How We Calculate Our Rankings


A Look Into Our Ranking Factors

School rankings focus on specific factors in the program evaluation process. When we assess schools, we focus on affordability, retention, and program appeal. Within our weighted calculation, we use data and subfactors, including things like net price, graduation rates, and student-faculty ratio. We focus on concepts that pertain specifically to social work students, ensuring they have a solid, holistic understanding of the available opportunities.

Our methodology explores the factors and subfactors we believe are most important and relevant to students during their search for the right program. The following section allows readers to take an in-depth look at the factors and subfactors we consider when compiling our research and data, resulting in our unique, student-focused methodology.

Subfactors for Affordability

Net Price
Net price refers to the total program cost, excluding the benefits of financial aid. When we review this cost, we focus on tuition, fees, and the cost of supplies, including books. Students can consider overall program cost to determine if financial aid will provide the necessary amount of assistance.

Percentage of Students Receiving Financial Aid
Schools that feature high percentages of students receiving financial aid indicate a learning environment that offers many financial assistance opportunities.

Loan Default Rate
This rate refers to the amount of graduates that can not make the payments on their student loans. Schools that report low loan default rates typically indicate that graduates can find lucrative employment opportunities after completing their programs that allow them to afford their student loan payments.

Subfactors for Retention

Graduation Rate
Colleges and universities that boast higher graduation rates usually indicate a successful student learning environment and higher student satisfaction rates. Schools with high graduation rates often provide more access to tools and resources for enrollees.

Transfer-Out Rate
Transfer-out rates measure the amount of students that choose to leave a particular college or university for other institutions. Schools that feature low transfer-out rates represent a higher level of student satisfaction. These low rates can also indicate an overall productive learning environment for students, rich with opportunity.

Full-Time Retention Rate
Measuring full-time retention focuses on how many students enroll full-time in a particular program and remain enrolled full-time throughout the program. Schools with higher retention rates for full-time students demonstrate significant levels of student success.

Part-Time Retention Rate
Part-time retention measures how many students enroll part time in a specific program and remain enrolled in that program for the full length of their degree. Incoming part-time students can review the retention rates to better understand how an institution caters to these learners.

Subfactors for Program Appeal

Enrollment Rate
Our methodology emphasizes enrollment rates, measuring how many students are enrolled at a particular college or university. These rates often feature figures for undergraduate and graduate students. Schools that feature higher enrollment rates indicate an in-demand institution with greater levels of student satisfaction.

Student-Faculty Ratio
Typically, schools that feature lower student-faculty ratios and classroom sizes indicate a more individualized learning environment that lead students to more one-on-one attention, making their learning experience more unique.


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