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Methodology for Program Rankings in Early Childhood Education

When ranking early childhood education programs, Discover Early Childhood EDU used the very best data available. In fact, most of our rankings are based on government sources, which provide us with unbiased and objective information. However, we also recognize that no ranking system will ever be perfect.

Each student brings their own unique set of needs and expectations to the process of searching for their college of choice. After all, education is inherently a subjective process that depends as much on quantifiable factors as it does on subjective experiences. Some students may attend the very top-ranked early childhood education programs and yet still find that they have missed something. That lack could be due to the fact that they weren’t able to take certain courses or that they had a difficult time learning from certain professors.

Regardless, we have devised a system that will help students make the very best choices for their educational experience. Each program has received the same treatment and we have done our best to eliminate any sort of bias in our system. Students can confidently use our information to help make their decisions, which should then be informed by campus visits and admissions interviews.

Data Collection

Our data collection efforts rely on outside, but reliable, sources. In particular, our results are based heavily on government data sources. We try to account for any lag in updates to information, however, most of these numbers don’t vary very much from year to year, so updates from sources are done as often as necessary.

Below is a list of just some of the sources used to collect data for this ranking:

  • https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/:
    This is a comprehensive repository of educational information brought to you by the National Center for Education Statistics. It lists data related to enrollment, costs, majors/minors, accreditation, and more for each college and university.
  • https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/:
    This site is packed with great information from the US Department of Education. The interface is user-friendly and covers many of the same data points covered by the NCES.
  • https://www.bls.gov/:
    The Bureau of Labor Statistics is our go-to source of information for all things related to jobs and salaries. There you can find information related to projected job growth as well as state-by-state numbers related to employment.
  • https://www.payscale.com/:
    This is the only private source we use. Payscale collects data for various job types from across the US and offers a view on employment and salaries from the private sector.

Ranking Factors We Use

  • Retention Rate:
    this data point reflects the number of first-year students who return to a school for their second year. When students return, that shows how much they and their parents think of the education they’ve received thus far. Essentially this is a tally of the confidence students place in their school.
  • Graduation Rate (4 Year, 6 Year):
    This number indicates how well students are able to stay on track and graduate within a reasonable time frame. Since six years is now considered closer to the norm, if a school reflects a four-year timeline then it may be considered exceptional.
  • Admission Rate:
    This number indicates how difficult it is to gain admittance to a school. Lower admission rates tend to bode well for things like graduation rate and even future salaries.
  • Cost of Tuition:
    Financial concerns are always important to consider. Every student and their family needs to weigh the potential long-term debt as well as short-term expenditures for an education.
  • Graduating Salary (ROI):
    After you finance an education, it’s vital to know how quickly you will be able to recoup those expenditures. Though every student’s graduating salary is subject to wide variance, this number can provide a good target figure.
  • # of Programs Offered:
    Though you might embark on your educational journey with a clear idea of what you wish to major in, keep in mind that many students change course after their first year or two. For that reason, it’s important to pick a school with a larger number of programs. When you find a school with a program that interests you, you might want to research to find if they have others that might serve as a suitable back-up.
  • Online Programs Offered:
    Online options are increasingly important in higher education. Though you might not prefer online classes, they might become necessary. For instance, if an emergency arises, online classes can fill in until things return to normal.
  • Loan Default Rate:
    This number can be tied to graduating salary: if students are generally well-paid upon graduation, they will be less likely to default on their debts.
  • Diplomas Awarded:
    The exact type of diploma you receive can make a difference later in your career, so take note of what sorts of degrees you can receive from a school. You certainly need to determine whether the school supports a bachelor’s degree or only an associate degree in your field.
  • % of Students Receiving Financial Aid:
    This number might not seem so important, but it can indicate a lot about the background of your fellow students. For instance, if the school is a private college but only 25% percent of the students receive assistance to attend, you might expect a certain sort of social dynamic.