There are many components of a satisfying college experience. The list might include challenging courses instructed by well-respected faculty members, state-of-the-art research facilities, a diverse campus population, student-led clubs and organizations, and low tuition. While the criteria for an enjoyable college experience ― as well as the overall experience at a particular institution ― will vary from student to student, certain statistics can be used to determine which schools seem to produce the highest number of ‘satisfied’ students.
This list includes the 15 private and 15 public universities with the highest rates of student satisfaction, as determined by data points like student retention, student-to-faculty ratio, and the percentage of alumni who donate money to their alma mater. Our goal is to provide a resource for students who want to focus their college search on schools that prioritize in these areas.
The following data points are listed for each school on our lists of 15.
- Student retention rate: This figure represents the percentage of freshmen students who complete a full or partial academic year, and then return for their sophomore year. Other grade levels were not considered for this data point.
- Six-year graduation rate: This figure indicates the percentage of students who complete an undergraduate (four-year) program within six years, which represents 150% of the typical completion period. Six-year graduation rate does not apply to advanced degree programs.
- Student-to-faculty ratio: This refers to the number of students that correspond to each faculty member. At smaller institutions, the ratio will usually be 10:1 or lower; at larger universities, the ratio may be 30:1 or higher. Relatively low ratios indicate a school’s emphasis on individualized education for students.
- % of alumni who give back: This figure indicates the percentage of graduated students who donate money to their alma mater ― although individual donation amounts did not factor into this percentage.
- Total endowment: The endowment is the amount of money given to the school from the federal government, as well as private companies, organizations, and individual donors.
- Student satisfaction: This percentage is derived from three other data points: student retention rate, six-year graduation rate, and the percentage of alumni who give back. Student-to-faculty ratio and endowment did not influence our satisfaction rates.
To build our list, we gathered data from two authoritative sources. Student retention and six-year graduation rate were obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS database. The student-to-faculty ratio, percentage of alumni who give back, and endowment figures were curated from individual school pages found on U.S. News & World Report, which is widely considered one of the most authoritative college-ranking sites.
How to Interpret the Data
It’s important to note that the data will vary considerably between private and public universities. The lowest ranked school on our list or private universities (The University of Chicago) had a satisfaction rate of 74.67%, which is four percentage points higher than our top-ranked public university (The University of Virginia). Additionally, the endowments are typically higher, and the student-to-faculty ratios lower, at private universities than at their public counterparts.
Another important consideration is tuition price ― a variable we have chosen not to include in this list. Student satisfaction is often linked to campus services, research facilities, and other amenities that often drive up the cost of education for those who enroll. If tuition is a major factor for you, then we definitely urge you to carefully research academic costs and fees before seriously considering any of the schools on our list.