How we Rank Nursing Schools

Every year, Nursing Explorer gathers and analyzes a vast amount of public data on all universities, colleges, and vocational schools in the United States that provide at least one of these nursing programs: LPN/LVN, ADN, and BSN.

The data that we provide on this website come from the following sources:

Based on the data we manage to gather and the analysis we perform afterward, we are able to provide students with valuable insight into nursing programs available in every state.

One of the most important pieces of information we provide is our annual best value nursing programs ranking.

We use PN and RN programs' NCLEX pass rates and the average net price of the schools to rank nursing programs/schools in an effort to provide students an easy means to gauge or compare nursing schools' education quality and affordability using one simple metric.

NCLEX pass rate is defined as the percentage of students who pass the NCLEX (either PN or RN) out of the total number of students who take the exam in any given year.

Average net price is the amount of money paid by the student out of pocket after financial aid. The net price is calculated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state or local government, or institutional grant and scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. The total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees books and supplies and the weighted average room and board and other expenses.

Rank Calculation 

  • We provide two ranks for every nursing school, provided that it offers both practical and registered nursing programs.
  • If a school offers both associate's and bachelor's degrees, we aggregate the data for the two programs and report them as one figure.
  • Our final rank is calculated using the recent  3 years average pass rate data. We needed to use 3 years average for the following reasons:
    1. To eliminate any fluctuation that may occur as a result of incomplete data
    2. To give schools some leeway if their pass rate goes down for any given year due to out-of-the-ordinary circumstances
  • For a school to make it to our final list, it needs to have a 3-year average score of 75% or higher. If its pass rate for three consecutive years is less than 75%, usually, the state board of nursing puts that school on notice. 
  • In addition to NCLEX pass rates, we also take the school's published latest net price into consideration 
  • The final score is calculated by giving 70% weight to NCLEX pass rate and 30% weight to net price.

What the Ranks Mean

Please note that our ranking system for nursing schools does not show the full picture for any nursing school or program. The information is provided only to help students get a high-level overview of a nursing school's performance in terms of helping them pass the NCLEX at an affordable cost.

In our research, we found a strong correlation between a school’s NCLEX pass rate and the quality of education provided by that school.

Beyond the Ranks

To further assist students with their research, we also provide up to 7 years' NCLEX pass rate data for both RN and PN in the form of a chart for each school. 

One can see a school's NCLEX pass rate history and compare its performance with the state's and the national average to gauge how well the school prepares its students when compared to other nursing schools in the state or in the country. You can also see the consistency of the school's performance in the chart, which is another important indicator of schools performance.