College Rankings -- Worth Reading?

Different news organizations and research groups publish "Best Colleges" rankings.  What use can you make of them?

  1. Understand their criteria.
    1. Some are more data-driven and, therefore, more objective.  Others are opinion-driven and more subjective.
    2. "Money" uses only data retrieved from the U.S. Dept of Education and from the schools own data, published in standardized format (to make school-to-school comparison easier).
    3. Some focus on outcomes.  For example the "Washington Monthly" ranks schools based on how many graduates enter not-for-profit, public service or government service careers.  Several others include job placement and entrance incomes to rank the schools.
    4. A few rely heavily on student reviews of their own college perhaps the most subjective analysis of all.  Others ask College Presidents to rate their competition.
    5. Somewhere in the fine print you may find the criteria used by each publisher.  That will be a helpful guide to understanding and making use of what you are reading.
  2. Let the lists inform you as to a "type of college" to search out.
    1. The most significant issue with nationally published rankings is how few colleges are mentioned out of a total census of 5,000 6,000 campuses.
    2. For example, a highly rated college in California may be of theoretical interest to a North Carolina family, but a remote practicality.
    3. That school in California, however, does have qualities and characteristics that can be found in similar colleges closer to home.  Your job is to find those other schools.
    4. The criteria of different lists also can help with different aspects of the decision-making process.  Before sending in your deposit to the University of Great-Expense consider (1) post-graduate outcomes, (2) campus culture and (3) net costs.  Those three, critical factors can be drawn from reading a variety of lists.
Thanks to Kim Clark at Money (kim_clark@moneymail.com) and www.ncagonline.org for making me smarter

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as Best Colleges, colleges, rankings.