Posts tagged ‘college rankings’

August 13, 2014

Money Magazine’s college rankings could use more transparency

by Grace

Money Magazine entered the crowded arena of college rankings with its method of evaluating schools on “quality, affordability and outcomes”.  Yes, it’s another imperfect way to rank schools.  But it offers another viewpoint, somewhat limited, for families seeking information during the college search process.

To calculate its rankings, Money evaluates colleges in three equally-weighted categories: quality, affordability and outcomes. Because it’s hard to directly measure the educational quality of a college, Money relies on many of the same proxy measures used by U.S. News and others, including SAT scores, graduation rates, student/faculty ratios and admission yields. These favor colleges that are wealthy, rich and exclusive. Predictably, Harvard and Princeton are near the very top of the quality list.

Affordability is based on “net price”, and considers the average time students take to graduate.

The affordability metrics, by contrast, are more sophisticated than the simple measures of spending per student and published tuition favored by other rankings. Money starts with a college’s “net price” — tuition and room and board minus discounts and institutional scholarships — and then multiplies it by the average number of years students at each college take to graduate. The rankings also factor in levels of student borrowing and federally financed parent debt. Finally, Money includes two measures of student loan default rates that account for the percentage of students who borrow and the demographics of the student body.

Outcome is based on Payscale data, adjusted for demographics and majors.

The third category is the most interesting, and sure to be the most controversial. Money magazine defines outcomes almost entirely in terms of how much students earn after graduation. It uses Payscale, a website that allows people to compare their salaries with other people with similar jobs, as the source of the earnings data.

First, Money rates each college based on the median earnings of graduates within five years of starting their career and again after more than 10 years. Then it calculates separate scores that adjust for each college’s student demographics and mix of academic majors. A college that graduates an unusually large number of public-school teachers, for example, would see its earnings adjusted upward, so it would not be penalized for focusing on public service. A college with many science and engineering majors, who are typically higher paid, would have its earnings adjusted down.

Payscale salary data has limitations.  It is self reported, and the unemployed have no earnings to report so they are excluded from the figures.

Limited disclosure makes these rankings of limited use.

Money Magazine’s report does not break out the individual components used to calculate the total score for a school, leaving the public to wonder how the different factors measure up.  Because of this, these rankings are of limited use.  US News college rankings, on the other hand, disclose many of the individual components that make up a school’s total score, making their report much more useful.

Another important point to remember is that none of these rankings fully incorporates the qualities of the individual student, who “is actually responsible for a significant percentage of the higher wages attributed to college graduates”.


Kevin Carey, “Building a Better College Ranking System. Wait, Babson Beats Harvard?”, New York Times, July 28, 2014.

July 26, 2013

Fiske lists best colleges for the money

by Grace

The Fiske Guide to Colleges Best Buys of 2014 was recently released.

  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Adelphi University
  • Iowa State University
  • Brigham Young University
  • New College of Florida
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Oregon State University
  • Clark University
  • Purdue University
  • Cooper Union
  • SUNY-Binghamton University
  • Cornell College
  • SUNY-College at Geneseo
  • Deep Springs College
  • Texas A&M University
  • Elon University
  • The Evergreen State College
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
  • Northeastern University
  • University of Edinburgh (UK)
  • Olin College of Engineering
  • University of Florida
  • Rhodes College
  • University of Iowa
  • Rice University
  • University of Mary Washington
  • St. Olaf College
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • The College of Wooster
  • University of North Carolina Asheville
  • Trinity University (TX)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of the South (Sewanee)
  • University of Oregon
  • Wabash College
  • University of St. Andrews (UK)
  • Warren Wilson College
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • Xavier University of Louisiana
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison

Geared toward parents, counselors and college-bound students, the guide uses high academic rating, inexpensive or moderate price and the quality of student life on campus as criteria for its best buys. All of the guide’s best-buy schools, including 21 public institutions, fall into the inexpensive or moderate price category, and most have four- or five-star academic ratings.

Yeah, it’s another ranking system that has its flaws.  But if you’re seeking value in a college choice, it might be worth taking a look at this list.

I notice that New York, North Carolina, and Texas each have two public colleges on the list.  Many of the Fiske schools are also on Kiplinger’s list of best values in public colleges.

September 19, 2012

Quick Takes – Teens not worried about retirement saving, MOOCs accepted for college credit, most students not ready for college, and more

by Grace

—  Nearly 40% of Generation Z (ages 13 to 22) expect to receive an inheritance and don’t believe they need to save for retirement.

Yikes!  Teens: Mom and Dad Will Leave Me Enough to Retire (USA Today)

—  ‘Colorado State Becomes the First American University to Accept MOOCs for Credit’

Udacity and EdX have set up a system for proctored final exams for their Massive Open Online Courses. The NYT reports that Colorado State University has become the first institution to accept such a proctored courses for university credit.  The NYT reports that several European universities have already done so. Given that hundreds of thousands of people are taking MOOCs, expect more to follow.
Jay P. Greene’s Blog

—  ‘ACT Reports Only 1 in 4 High School Students Ready for College’

Once again, the results showed that only one in four students are meeting all college readiness benchmarks in English, Reading, Math and Science, which is on par with The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2011 results….

—  ‘Ten Reasons to Ignore the U.S. News Rankings’

But the compiled data can be useful.

10. Who’s your Daddy? U.S. News actually does two separate things. First, it presents a huge amount of data about lots of schools, much of which can be quite useful. For example, it allows you to compare the SAT ranges or relative selectivity of a handful of schools in which you are interested. But the editors then go on to make judgments about the relative importance of each of these numbers and build these judgments into a formula.  But why should you accept the value judgments of a bunch of editors sitting in Washington, DC? You can take the numbers and devise your own rankings.
MInding The Campus

—  Head Start doesn’t work according to recently released report and as reported by Joe Klein.

We spend more than $7 billion providing Head Start to nearly 1 million children each year. And finally there is indisputable evidence about the program’s effectiveness, provided by the Department of Health and Human Services: Head Start simply does not work.
Via Meadia

Walt Gardner thinks ” it would be a big mistake to dismiss the value of Head Start out of hand”.

September 13, 2011

Free access to expanded version of U.S. News college rankings

by Grace

Free access is courtesy of Google.  Hurry, because this offer expires  Thursday, September 15!

Today, U.S. News and World Report released their 28th annual ranking of the top higher-education institutions across the nation. While this list of schools represents traditions of academic excellence that span centuries, these institutions also clearly recognize the importance (and value) of modern technology in academia. Google has just announced that 61 of this year’s top 100 universities have chosen Google Apps for Education to improve communication and collaboration on campus.

Free Access To Rankings From Google

To show their appreciation to these schools, and to help students better explore and evaluate their college options, Google is providing a year’s worth of free access to the U.S. News complete rankings for anyone who registers before Friday, September 16. Just sign up and you’re all set.

(Cross posted at Kitchen Table Math)

July 26, 2011

SAT scores matter, even for test-optional colleges

by Grace

Do SAT scores matter in college applications?  Although students often hear that admissions officers place a relatively low priority on test scores and that the trend is toward “test-optional” admissions, it’s clear that performance on standardized tests remains important.   Inside Higher Ed had this recent report.

Many of the same colleges that have ended SAT requirements, noting that wealthy students tend to do well on the exam and that many black and Latino students succeed in college while not doing well on it, may trust the SAT in other ways. These colleges buy the names of high-scoring students from the College Board (and from the ACT) and use those names to recruit prospective studentsBloomberg reported. Leon Botstein, president of Bard College (which neither requires the SAT nor buys names), criticized the practice. “They take a stance that looks principled but is strategic,” Botstein told Bloomberg. “They say ‘I’m going to show myself to be open,’ but in reality they’re completely buying into the definition of a good student that is guided by the test.”

From Bloomberg:

Students are being duped by some schools into thinking that test scores don’t matter, when they matter a great deal for marketing outreach and prestige…. Test-optional colleges that buy names of high-scoring students are hypocritical….

Another benefit to test-optional colleges of recruiting students with high test results is that it can help raise their average entrance-exam scores, a metric used in determining some national rankings and a measure of prestige. Since students who don’t test well may refrain from submitting scores, that leaves high performers, or those who can afford prep courses and pay fees to retake the test several times, to bolster a school’s average scores….

In 2004, Pitzer President Laura Trombley wrote that the SAT “doesn’t really make any sense anymore.” The school, one of seven institutions comprising the Claremont Colleges inCalifornia, ranked 70th in the 2002 U.S. News & World Report list of liberal arts colleges. That year, the school’s average SAT score for verbal and math combined was 1,234, according to Pitzer data. In 2004, after it went test optional, its ranking climbed to 59, while the average score rose to 1,246. By 2010, it ranked 46th, while the score reached 1,293.

“It helped certainly to improve our rankings,” Trombley said. “That’s going to have a positive effect if our SAT scores improved.”

The College of the Holy Cross, which went test-optional in 2006, does not buy names of high-scoring students.

“If we were buying the names of students who scored very high on the SATs, to buy those names would be somewhat contrary to the message we would send about the importance of standardized testing,” McDermott said.

Many merit scholarships require SAT test scores, even at test-optional schools like Wake Forest.  The criteria for several of their merit awards, including the Nancy Susan Reynolds Scholarship, are described on their website.

Successful applicants have pursued the most challenging curriculum available to them and have achieved grade point averages and SAT scores that place them in the top few percentage points in comparison to their peers (often in the top 1 percent of their class, with SAT-1 scores above 1500).

Some test optional colleges that buy student names from testing companies:
American University  —  Bowdoin College  —  Denison University  —  Dickinson College  —  Mount Holyoke College  —  Pitzer College  —  Sewanee: University of the South  —  Smith College  —  Union College  —  University of Arizona  —  Wake Forest University

A response by Laura Skandera Trombley, president of Pitzer College.

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