Understanding College Rankings

US News and World Report, Forbes, The Princeton Review and Newsweek put out annual reports on US College Rankings. Each of these companies uses far different methodologies to decide these US College Rankings.

US News and World Report:

The schools were designated National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities, and Regional Colleges.

Graduation rate accounts for 7.5 percent of the final score.

High school counselor’s rankings are calculated at between 15 and 22.5 percent.

Undergraduate academic reputation is weighted at 22.5 percent for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges and 25 percent for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges based on peer ratings.

Graduation and Freshman retention rates count for 20 percent for the National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges and 25 percent for Regional Universities and Regional Colleges.

Faculty resources account for 20 percent.

Student selectivity is 15 percent.

Financial resources is 10 percent

Graduation rate performance is 7.5 percent for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges only.

Alumni giving rate accounts for 5 percent

US News and World Report US College Rankings are finally determined by ‘grading on a curve’ with the top school in each category getting a score of 100 and the rest of the schools listed in descending order with the scores rounded to the nearest whole number.

Source: http://www.usnews.com/articles/education/best-colleges/2010/08/17/how-us-news-calculates-the-college-rankings.html?PageNr=1

Forbes: Draws on a number of sources to determine US College Rankings

First factor: Student Satisfaction is weighted at 27.5%
Second Factor is Postgraduate Success weighted at 30%
Third factor is Student Debt weighted at 17.5%

Fourth Factor is the Four-year Graduation Rate weighted at 17.5%
Fifth Factor is Competitive Awards weighted at 7.5%

The 600 colleges then were ranked in descending order based on the weight of the scores.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/2010/08/01/best-colleges-methodology-opinions-colleges-10-ccap.html
The Princeton Review US College Rankings methodology is not mathematical but is more subjective.

The 373 colleges are based on the consider opinions of students parents educators and the staff of the Princeton review; with 99.5 percent of the opinions collected from an on line survey of students and interviews with the colleges’ staffs. These interviews were conducted in person by the Princeton review staff.

Source: http://www.princetonreview.com/faqs-college-rankings.aspx

The Newsweek/Kaplan US College Rankings is based on a metadata approach:

The school must be listed in either Fiske’s Guide to Colleges, the Princeton Review’s, and U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges.

The school must have high academic standards with at least the 75th percentile SAT score (critical reading and math) for the incoming freshman class of 1,150 or higher

The school must offer a wide range of different degrees.

SAT or ACT scores, percent admitted were given a “2” weighting. Student-to-faculty ratio and retention rate received a “1”. Endowments, a .5 weighting. Dining, housing, facilities and climate, each had a “.25” weighting.

Source: http://education.newsweek.com/2010/09/12/newsweek-college-rankings-methodology. html

US News and World Report has the most rigorous and scientific US College Ranking system while the Princeton Review has the most subjective. It is far to say that all of these systems have pros and cons, but the fairest and most objective that still captures student inputs is Forbes’ combined approach to US Collage Rankings.


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