The Journal reports that its rankings are based on 15 key indicators that assess colleges in four areas: Outcomes, Resources, Engagement and Environment.

Outcomes accounts for 40% of the weighting and measures things like the salary graduates earn and the debt burden they accrue. Resources, with a 30% weighting, is mainly a proxy for the spending schools put into instruction and student services. Engagement, drawn mostly from a student survey and with a 20% weight, examines views on things like teaching and interactions with faculty and other students. Environment, at 10%, assesses the diversity of the university community.