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UW-Madison ranks highly in ‘Best Colleges for Your Money’ survey

July 10, 2017 By Käri Knutson

Money Magazine ranked UW–Madison 45th overall in its annual listing of Best Colleges for Your Money, and 27th among public universities.

Data used to determine the list include a value ranking that evaluates colleges on educational quality, affordability and alumni success. The ranking features colleges in what Money calls the “Paycheck League” — schools that provide a boost in the job market and offer graduates the best odds of real-world success.

Money reviewed 711 schools on 27 factors in three categories: quality of education, affordability and outcomes.

For quality of education, each school’s six-year graduation rate and its “value-added” graduation rate make up most of this measure. But this year, Money added a new indicator of financial stability. Points were subtracted from colleges showing signs of distress — for example, being listed as financially troubled by the U.S. Department of Education, bond rating agencies, or accreditors.

For affordability, short-term gauges include the net costs students actually pay (after aid is subtracted), the length of time it takes students to earn degrees, and the amount students and parents typically borrow through federal programs. Long-term measures include student loan default and repayment rates.

Outcomes are primarily based on alumni salary data as reported on and the federal College Scorecard. Money also includes a value-added analysis of the PayScale earnings reports, accounting for the socioeconomic background of the student body and the mix of majors. Money also uses data from LinkedIn and Burning Glass Technologies to measure the market value of each school’s alumni.

Last year, UW–Madison ranked 63rd. Methodology changed this year to now include categories for financial troubles and socio-economic mobility.

To view the full rankings and methodology, visit