Ratings Criteria

Public vs. Private: This category denotes whether institutions are privately run or part of the University of North Carolina system—the public university system for the state of North Carolina. There are 16 universities in this system.

Average High School GPA: The college finder shows the average high school GPA of students enrolled at each college (The College Board).

SAT Score: The college finder compares students’ own SAT scores to the scores of the middle 50 percent of students currently enrolled at each college (The College Board).

Six-Year Graduation Rate: Bachelor’s degree graduation rates measure the percentage of entering students beginning their studies full-time and are planning to get a bachelor’s degree and who complete their degree program within six years. Data are from 2009 (2003 cohort), the latest available from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System's Data Center.

Acceptance Rate: This is the percentage of applicants who are admitted, regardless of whether they enrolled. Data are from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Student-Faculty Ratio: Student-Faulty Ratio is the number of full-time faculty employed per full-time student enrolled in the university. The average for all NC universities and colleges is 14:1. Data are from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Undergraduate Enrollment: Undergraduate Enrollment is divided into 4 categories: Small, Medium, Large, and Very Large. Universities with enrollment under 1000 are considered Small; from 1001 to 2000 are considered Medium; from 2001 to 5000 are considered Large; and universities with more than 5000 students are considered Very Large. Roughly one quarter of the listed schools fall into each category. Data are from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

HBCU: Historically Black Colleges and Universities are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before 1964 with the intention of serving the black community.

Women’s College: Women's colleges in higher education are undergraduate, bachelor's degree-granting institutions whose student populations are composed exclusively or almost exclusively of women. Data are from individual universities’ websites.

Religious Affiliation: Religious affiliation denotes whether each school is officially affiliated with a recognized church or other religious institution. Data are from individual universities’ websites.

Location: The Pope Center uses data from the College Board. The three categories are Urban, Suburban, and Rural.

General Education Rating: The Pope Center’s general education rating is based on the American Council of Trustees and Alumni’s “What Will They Learn?SM” tool, which “rates each college on whether the institution (or, in many cases, the Arts & Sciences or Liberal Arts divisions) requires seven core subjects: Composition, Literature, Foreign Language, U.S. Government or History, Economics, Mathematics, or Natural or Physical Science. The grade is based on a detailed review of the latest publicly-available online course catalogs.” The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America’s colleges and universities. A detailed list of North Carolina universities' general education ratings can be found here.

Shakespeare: This denotes whether students are required to take a course on Shakespeare in order to complete an English degree. You can find more on this topic here.

Academic Transparency: Transparency measures the degree to which universities publicly share the results of eight standardized assessments of student learning outcomes and student attitudes and engagement: College Learning Assessment, Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress, Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency, Your First Year College, College Senior Survey, National Survey of Student Engagement, the College Student Experiences Questionnaire, and the University of California Undergraduate Experiences Survey.

Tuition and Fees: The prices used in the college finder represent tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year. Other costs, such as room and board, are not included.

Average Starting Salary of Graduates: Starting salary is defined as the salary of full-time employees with 4 or fewer years of experience who hold a bachelor's degree and no higher degrees. Data are from Payscale.com. (Updated March 2011.)

Average Student Debt of Graduates: Data are from the Project on Student Debt (2008, 2009). The Project on Student Debt is an initiative of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit independent research and policy organization dedicated to making college more available and affordable to people of all backgrounds.

Economic Value: This measure is the ratio of the average graduate’s student debt (from Project on Student Debt) to the average graduate’s starting salary (from Payscale.com). If one of these figures is not available, the economic value cannot be estimated.

Percentage of Funding Provided by Taxpayers: This figure is the percent of each university’s revenues that comes from state and federal taxes. It does not include government revenue that comes through student aid. Data are from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

Percentage of Alumni Who Give: The average percentage of “undergraduate alumni of record” who donated money to the college or university. Alumni of record are former students who received an undergraduate degree and for whom the college or university has a current address. Data are from U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of the best U.S. colleges.

Free Speech: Free Speech ratings are based on the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s speech code rating system. The scores range from green (no impediments to students' first amendment rights) to red (considerable impediments to students' First Amendment rights). A full report on free speech on North Carolina's college and university campuses is available here. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education works to protect fundamental rights on campus in four areas: freedom of speech and expression; religious liberty and freedom of association; freedom of conscience; and due process and legal equality on campus.

Alternative Newspaper: An alternative newspaper is defined as any school newspaper other than the official school newspaper covering university policy or political topics. The Pope Center gathered data from universities’ websites and the Collegiate Network.

Student Political Involvement: Student political involvement measures the total number of student groups on campus dedicated to political or “activist” purposes—both on the left and on the right. Schools with two or fewer political organizations are considered "non-political." Schools with three to five groups are considered "somewhat political." Schools with six or more groups are considered "very political." Data come from individual colleges’ websites.

Faculty Political Balance: This category measures the number of professors in the economics and political science departments who are registered Democrats versus the number who are registered Republicans. Ratios of greater than 5:1 are considered "Very Unbalanced." Ratios between 5:1 and 1.5:1 are considered "Unbalanced." A ratio of 1.5:1 or less is considered “Balanced.” Data were gathered from the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Trustee Political Bias: This category measures the number of trustees at each university who are registered Democrats versus the number who are registered Republicans. Ratios of greater than 5:1 are considered "Very Unbalanced." Ratios between 5:1 and 1.5:1 are considered "Unbalanced." A ratio of 1.5:1 or less is considered “Balanced.” Data for trustees living in North Carolina were gathered from the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

If you have any questions about the sources, feel free to contact Jenna Ashley Robinson at jarobinson@popecenter.org.