Academic Reputation Rankings for 155 National Universities (and What That Means for Honors)

Editor’s Note: The list appears after the introductory section. The list is current as of September 25, 2018.

In a previous post, Based on Academic Reputation Alone, Publics Would Be Higher in U.S. News Rankings, we write that many public universities have a reputation in the academic community that is much higher than their overall ranking by U.S. News. In this post, we will summarize the reasons that prospective honors students and their parents might consider paying more attention to academic reputation than to other factors in the oft-cited rankings. The list also facilitates comparisons of public and private universities.

First, these are factors to consider if the state university’s academic reputation is much stronger than its overall ranking:

1. The overall rankings penalize public universities for their typically larger class sizes, but the average honors class size in our most recent study of honors programs is 24.9 students, much smaller than the average class size for the universities as a whole.  Many of these honors classes are lower-division, where the preponderance of large classes is often the norm. First-year honors seminars and classes for honors-only students average 17.5 students per section.  Result:  the relatively poor rating the whole university might receive for class size is offset for honors students.

2. The overall rankings hit some public universities hard for having relatively low retention and graduation percentages, but freshmen retention rates in honors programs are in the 90% range and higher; meanwhile six-year grad rates for honors entrants average 87%–much higher than the average rates for the universities as a whole.  Result: the lower rates for the universities as a whole are offset for honors students.

3. All public universities suffer in the overall rankings because U.S. News assigns ranking points for both the wealth of the university as a whole and for the impact that wealth has on professors’ salaries, smaller class sizes, etc.  This is a double whammy in its consideration of inputs and outputs separately; only the outputs should be rated.  Result: the outputs for class size (see above) are offset for honors students, and the wealth of the university as an input should not be considered in the first place.

4. For highly-qualified students interested in graduate or professional school, academic reputation and the ability to work with outstanding research faculty are big advantages. Honors students have enhanced opportunities to work with outstanding faculty members even in large research universities, many of which are likely to have strong departmental rankings in the student’s subject area.  Result: honors students are not penalized for the research focus of public research universities; instead, they benefit from it.

5. Many wealthy private elites are generous in funding all, or most, need-based aid, but increasingly offer little or no merit aid. This means that families might receive all the need-based aid they “deserve” according to a federal or institutional calculation and still face annual college costs of $16,000 to $50,000. On the other hand, national scholars and other highly-qualified students can still receive significant merit aid at most public universities. Result: if a public university has an academic reputation equal to that of a wealthy private elite, an honors student could be better off financially and not suffer academically in a public honors program.

But…what if the academic reputation of the public university is lower than that of a private school under consideration?  In this case, the public honors option should offer the following offsets:

1.The net cost advantage of the public university, including merit aid, probably needs to be significant.

2. It is extremely important to evaluate the specific components of the honors program to determine if it provides a major “value-added” advantage–is it, relatively, better than the university as a whole. Often, the answer will be yes. To determine how much better, look at the academic disciplines covered by the honors program, the actual class sizes, retention and graduation rates, research opportunities, and even honors housing and perks, such as priority registration.

The rankings below are on a 5.0 scale, and there are many ties. We have included national universities with reputations rankings between 2.7 and 4.9.

University Acad Rep Ranking
Princeton 4.9 1
Harvard 4.9 1
Stanford 4.9 1
MIT 4.9 1
Yale 4.7 5
Columbia 4.7 5
Caltech 4.7 5
UC Berkeley 4.7 5
Chicago 4.6 9
Johns Hopkins 4.6 9
Cornell 4.6 9
Penn 4.5 12
Duke 4.5 12
Northwestern 4.4 14
Brown 4.4 14
Michigan 4.4 14
Dartmouth 4.3 17
Carnegie Mellon 4.3 17
UCLA 4.3 17
Georgia Tech 4.3 17
Vanderbilt 4.2 21
Virginia 4.2 21
Washington Univ 4.1 23
Rice 4.1 23
Notre Dame 4.1 23
Emory 4.1 23
Georgetown 4.1 23
North Carolina 4.1 23
UT Austin 4.1 23
USC 4 30
UW Madison 4 30
NYU 3.9 32
UC Davis 3.9 32
Illinois 3.9 32
Washington 3.9 32
William & Mary 3.8 36
UC San Diego 3.8 36
Ohio St 3.8 36
Purdue 3.8 36
Tufts 3.7 40
Case Western 3.7 40
UC Irvine 3.7 40
Penn State 3.7 40
Florida 3.7 40
Maryland 3.7 40
Minnesota 3.7 40
Wake Forest 3.6 47
Boston College 3.6 47
Brandeis 3.6 47
Boston Univ 3.6 47
UC Santa Barbara 3.6 47
Georgia 3.6 47
Texas A&M 3.6 47
Indiana 3.6 47
Colorado 3.6 47
Arizona 3.6 47
RPI 3.5 57
Tulane 3.5 57
George Washington 3.5 57
Pitt 3.5 57
Virginia Tech 3.5 57
Iowa 3.5 57
Michigan St 3.5 57
Rochester 3.4 64
U of Miami 3.4 64
Northeastern 3.4 64
Rutgers 3.4 64
Col School of Mines 3.4 64
UMass Amherst 3.4 64
Arizona St 3.4 64
Pepperdine 3.3 71
Syracuse 3.3 71
RIT 3.3 71
Connecticut 3.3 71
Clemson 3.3 71
Auburn 3.3 71
Stony Brook 3.3 71
Iowa St 3.3 71
Oregon 3.3 71
Kansas 3.3 71
Lehigh 3.2 81
Villanova 3.2 81
SMU 3.2 81
American 3.2 81
Delaware 3.2 81
Miami Oh 3.2 81
Alabama 3.2 81
Florida St 3.2 81
NC State 3.2 81
Missouri 3.2 81
Tennessee 3.2 81
Fordham 3.1 92
Brigham Young 3.1 92
Baylor 3.1 92
Pacific 3.1 92
Drexel 3.1 92
UC Santa Cruz 3.1 92
Oklahoma 3.1 92
Nebraska 3.1 92
South Carolina 3.1 92
UC Riverside 3.1 92
Kentucky 3.1 92
George Mason 3.1 92
Utah 3.1 92
WPI 3 105
Marquette 3 105
Loyola Chicago 3 105
Howard 3 105
Binghamton 3 105
Vermont 3 105
UI Chicago 3 105
Univ at Buffalo 3 105
Colorado St 3 105
Temple 3 105
Kansas St 3 105
Clark 2.9 116
Denver 2.9 116
San Diego 2.9 116
DePaul 2.9 116
St. Louis 2.9 116
New Hampshire 2.9 116
Arkansas 2.9 116
Mississippi 2.9 116
San Diego St 2.9 116
Seton Hall 2.9 116
LSU 2.9 116
Yeshiva 2.8 127
Stevens Inst Tech 2.8 127
New School 2.8 127
Hofstra 2.8 127
TCU 2.8 127
St. John’s 2.8 127
Illinois Tech 2.8 127
Texas Tech 2.8 127
TCU 2.8 127
UAB 2.8 127
USF 2.8 127
VCU 2.8 127
UT Dallas 2.8 127
New Mexico 2.8 127
Univ at Albany 2.8 127
UMBC 2.8 127
Cincinnati 2.8 127
URI 2.8 127
Tulsa 2.7 145
Catholic 2.7 145
Clarkson 2.7 145
Michigan Tech 2.7 145
UCF 2.7 145
Georgia State 2.7 145
NJIT 2.7 145
Idaho 2.7 145
UNC Charlotte 2.7 145
UC Merced 2.7 145
Hawaii Manoa 2.7 145

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Changes in Dept Rankings 2014-2018

In other posts and pages we compare the public and private university academic departmental rankings and list those along with U.S. News overall rankings for the universities. It is often the case that a university’s overall ranking is sharply at odds with its departmental rankings.

In this post we will list the changes in the aggregate academic department rankings for 61 public and private universities during the 2014–2018 time frame. In doing so we hope to give readers some idea whether a given university is trending up or down in the reputation of its academic offerings. A high aggregate ranking indicates that a student could have more options for a major or have the ability to change from one highly-ranked major to another that is also strong. Strong departments in public universities are especially important to honors students because they can take better advantage of the strong department via mentoring and smaller classes.

Academic departments are ranking by university academicians and administrators across the nation. Like any other rankings based on reputation, these are inherently subjective. On the other hand, few individuals are more keenly aware of the personnel changes in their professions or disciplines than members of the academy, whose careers often rely on their own recognized accomplishments, usually by means of publishing or patenting their work.

Our own approach is subjective in that we have chosen to rank only 15 academic disciplines, and most are ranked only at the graduate level. These are biology; business (undergrad); chemistry; computer science; earth sciences; economics; education; engineering (undergrad); English; history; mathematics; physics; political science; psychology; and sociology.

Not every university has ranked programs in all 15 disciplines. In such cases, we only count the ranked disciplines, and the average is based only on those; in other words, their is no penalty if a university does not offer, say, engineering.

In rare cases, a university did not have a ranked department in 2014 but did in 2018. In the list below, the rankings for Emory and Georgia Tech only include departments that were ranked in both years. For example, the history department at Georgia Tech broke into the rankings in 2018 at number 114; this was good in a sense, but the ranking, not present in 2014, had a negative impact.

There are four other special cases. We did not begin tracking Boston College and the University of Rochester until recently, so we do not have a 2014 aggregate ranking for their departments. But because their current aggregate ranking is among the top 60, we included them in the 2018 column. NYU, Carnegie Mellon, and Boston University have been tracked since 2016, so their rankings cover only a two-year period.

Although many universities below had meaningful changes in the aggregate departmental rankings (+2.0/-2.0) during the period, the mean change was only .414. Example: University A had an aggregate departmental ranking of 24.62 in 2018 (very high) but increased only .22 over the 2014 ranking of 24.40.

But University B had an aggregate ranking of 53.65 in 2014 but improved to 49.86 in 2018, a significant change.

The universities below are listed in order of their 2018 aggregate department ranking. Those with an improvement of 2.0 or greater are in bold; those with a decline of 2.0 or greater are in italics.

University 2013-14 2018-19 Chg + or –
Stanford 2.71 1.93 0.78
MIT 4.58 2.73 1.85
UC Berkeley 3.13 3.20 -0.07
Caltech 5.63 4.71 0.92
Princeton 5.77 5.38 0.39
Harvard 5.57 5.71 -0.14
Michigan 9.47 9.40 0.07
Columbia 10.85 10.23 0.62
UCLA 12.86 10.86 2.00
Yale 12.00 10.92 1.08
Chicago 11.92 11.67 0.25
Wisconsin 12.73 12.93 -0.20
Cornell 11.64 13.79 -2.15
UT-Austin 14.27 14.47 -0.20
Penn 18.53 16.73 1.80
Northwestern 19.00 17.86 1.14
Illinois 19.33 20.07 -0.74
Duke 22.38 20.23 2.15
Johns Hopkins 19.36 21.93 -2.57
Washington 21.67 22.20 -0.53
North Carolina 25.80 23.79 2.01
Minnesota 23.07 24.20 -1.13
NYU* 27.13 25.00 2.13
Georgia Tech 32.78 25.40 7.38
UCSD 23.29 25.93 -2.64
Ohio State 25.47 26.40 -0.93
Penn State 25.93 27.27 -1.34
Virginia 32.47 27.40 5.07
Brown 27.08 27.62 -0.54
Carnegie Mellon* 26.55 27.73 -1.18
UC Davis 30.57 28.14 2.43
Maryland 27.40 28.80 -1.40
Indiana 29.07 29.93 -0.86
Rice 33.83 31.92 1.91
WUSTL 29.08 32.29 -3.21
UC Irvine 34.31 32.53 1.78
Colorado 37.00 33.20 3.80
UCSB 35.64 35.21 0.43
USC 37.73 35.27 2.46
Vanderbilt 33.29 35.57 -2.28
Emory 33.00 38.86 -5.86
Purdue 40.33 40.27 0.06
Texas A&M 43.80 41.60 2.20
Michigan State 43.20 42.13 1.07
Arizona 38.20 43.00 -4.80
Rutgers New Bruns 43.87 43.87 0.00
Pitt 46.00 45.40 0.60
Notre Dame 52.23 45.43 6.80
Arizona State 47.27 45.67 1.60
Stony Brook SUNY 47.08 46.46 0.62
Massachusetts 52.14 48.67 3.47
Florida 44.00 48.57 -4.57
Boston University* 50.20 48.67 1.53
Boston College no data 50.27
Iowa 46.93 50.27 -3.34
Oregon 49.36 51.21 -1.85
Dartmouth 48.86 51.38 -2.52
Rochester no data 52.00
Virginia Tech 57.58 52.31 5.27
Georgetown 59.33 53.75 5.58
Illinois Chicago 58.07 59.80 -1.73

Best Undergrad Business Programs, by Specialty, Public and Private

Editor’s note: Updated September 26, 2019. This list is from US News (2019) and we post it here for convenience and for comparison with the list of best overall business programs here.

Accounting

1. UT Austin
2. Illinois, Brigham Young
4. Michigan
5. Penn
6. Indiana
7. Notre Dame, USC
9. NYU
10. Ohio State
11. Florida
12. Texas A&M
13. Georgia
14. UC Berkeley
15. Creighton
16. UNC-Chapel Hill
17. St. Joseph’s
18. Loyola Marymount
19. Michigan State, Penn State, Washington, Wake Forest
23. Arizona State, Gonzaga, Seattle, Virginia, UW Madison
28. Bentley, Miami Oh, Saint Louis
31. Boston College, MIT

Entrepreneurship

1. Boston College
2. MIT
3. Indiana
4. UC Berkeley, Michigan, UNC-Chapel Hill
7. Penn
8. UT Austin
9. USC
10. Arizona
11. Loyola Marymount, Xavier
13. Boston College, Houston
15. Baylor, Syracuse, Utah
18. Brigham Young, Saint Louis
20. Carnegie Mellon, Florida, Maryland
23. Arizona State, Santa Clara, NYU, San Francisco
27. Fordham
28. Georgetown, Northeastern
30. Georgia Tech

Finance

1. Penn
2. NYU
3. MIT
4. Michigan
5. UT Austin
6. UC Berkeley
7. Indiana
8. Carnegie Mellon
9. Boston College
10. Virginia
11. UNC-Chapel Hill
12. Ohio State
13. Cornell, Georgetown
15. Fordham, Notre Dame
17. Creighton
18. USC, WUSTL
20. Loyola Chicago, Seattle, St.Joseph’s, Xavier
24. Loyola Maryland, Marquette, UW Madison
27. Arizona State, Fairfield
29. Babson, Emory
31. Florida, Illinois, Washington

Insurance

1. Georgia
2. UW Madison
3. Georgia State
4. Temple
5. Florida State, Penn
7. Penn State, UT Austin
9. Illinois State
10. Penn State, Illinois
12. St. John’s

International Business

1. South Carolina
2. NYU
3. Georgetown
4. UC Berkeley
5. Penn
6. Florida International, George Washington
8. Fordham, Northeastern, Michigan
11. Saint Louis
12. USC
13. San Diego State
14. American
15. Arizona State, Temple, Washington State
18. Hawaii Manoa
19. UT Austin
20. Brigham Young, Missouri St. Louis
22. Indiana, Miami Fl, Virginia
25. Bryant, UNC-Chapel Hill, Oklahoma
28. Michigan State

Management

1. Michigan
2. Penn
3. UC Berkeley
4. UNC Chapel Hill
5. Virginia
6. Indiana, MIT, NYU
9. UT Austin
10. Arizona State
11. Babson, USC
13. Texas A&M
14. Michigan State
15. Maryland
16. Illinois
17. Ohio State
18. Emory, Notre Dame
20. Cornell, Penn State, Detroit Mercy
23. Minnesota
24. Rockhurst, Washington
26. Babson, Georgetown
28. Carnegie Mellon
29. WUSTL
30. UW Madison

Management Information Systems

1. MIT
2. Carnegie Mellon
3. Arizona
4. UT Austin
5. Minnesota
6. Georgia Tech, Indiana
8. Maryland
9. Georgia State
10. NYU
11. Arizona State
12. Penn
13. Temple
14. Michigan
15. UT Dallas
16. Loyola Chicago, Georgia
18. LeMoyne, Santa Clara
20. Michigan State, St. Joseph’s, UNC-Chapel Hill
23. Creighton, Fairfield
25. Clemson, Ohio State, Arkansas
28. Cornell, Purdue, Illinois, Xavier Oh

Marketing

1. Michigan
2. Penn
3. NYU
4. UT Austin
5. UNC-Chapel Hill
6. UC Berkeley
7. Indiana
8. Virginia
9. UW Madison
10. St. Joseph’s
11. USC
12. Notre Dame
13. Loyola Marymount
14. Florida
15. Fordham
16. Penn State
17. Arizona State, Ohio State, Illinois
20. Cornell, Fairfield
22. MIT
23. Emory, Maryland
25. Texas A&M, Washington
27. Boston College, San Francisco
29. Babson, LeMoyne, Minnesota

Production/Operation Management

1. MIT
2. Penn
3. Carnegie Mellon
4. Michigan
5. Purdue
6. UC Berkeley, North Carolina Chapel Hill
8. Michigan State
9. UT Austin
10. Ohio State
11. Georgia Tech
12. Penn State
13. Indiana
14. NYU
15. Illinois, Santa Clara, Minnesota, WUSTL

Quantitative Analysis

1. MIT
2. Carnegie Mellon
3. Penn
4. UC Berkeley
5. NYU
6. Georgia Tech, Purdue, Michigan
9. Rockhurst, UT Austin
11. Cornell
12. Ohio State
13. Loyola Chicago, North Carolina Chapel Hill

Real Estate

1. Penn
2. UC Berkeley
3. UW Madison
4. NYU
5. Georgia
6. UT Austin
7. USC
8. Florida
9. Marquette
10. Cornell
11. Florida State
12. North Carolina Chapel Hill
13. Georgia State, Penn State
15. Michigan

Supply Chain Management/Logistics

1. Michigan State
2. MIT
3. Tennessee
4. Arizona State, Penn State
6. Ohio State
7. Michigan
8. Carnegie Mellon
9. UT Austin
10. Purdue
11. Penn
12. Maryland
13. Georgia Tech
14. Marquette
15. Arkansas, UC Berkeley
17. Clemson, Illinois
19. Iowa State, UW Madison

Best Undergrad Engineering Programs, by Specialty, Public and Private

Editor’s note:  Update September 26, 2018. This listing is from the most recent U.S. News rankings. We list them here on one page for convenience and for easy comparison with the overall engineering rankings here

Aerospace

1. MIT
2. Georgia Tech
3. Caltech
4. Michigan
5. Purdue
6. Stanford
7. Illinois
8. UT Austin
9. Texas A&M, Colorado
11. Embry-Riddle
12. Maryland
13. Virginia Tech
14. Princeton
15. Ohio State
16. Penn State, UCLA
18. UC Berkeley, Washington

Biological/Agricultural

1. Purdue
2. Texas A&M
3. Iowa State
4. UC Davis
5. Cornell, Illinois
7. Michigan State, Ohio State
9. Virginia Tech
10. NC State, Penn State
12. Florida

Biomedical

1. Johns Hopkins
2. MIT
3. Georgia Tech
4. Duke
5. Stanford
6. UC San Diego
7. UC Berkeley
8. Rice
9. Michigan
10. Penn
11. Washington
12. Boston University, Northwestern
14. Case Western, UT Austin
16. Columbia, Cornell
18. Pitt, WUSTL
18. Vanderbilt, WUSTL
20. Caltech, Harvard
22. Purdue, UCLA
24. Virginia

Chemical

1. MIT
2. Georgia Tech
3. UC Berkeley
4. UT Austin
5. Caltech
6. Stanford
7. Michigan
8. Minnesota
9. Delaware, UW Madison
11. Princeton
12. Illinois
13. Cornell
14. Carnegie Mellon, Purdue
16. Northwestern
17. UC Santa Barbara
18. NC State
19. Penn State, Penn

Civil

1. UC Berkeley
2. Georgia Tech
3. Illinois
4. UT Austin
5. Purdue
6. Michigan
7. MIT, Stanford
9. Virginia Tech
10. Cornell, Texas A&M
12. Carnegie Mellon
13. UC Davis
14. Penn State
15. UW Madison
16. Caltech
17. Columbia, Lehigh
19. NC State
20. Northwestern, UCLA, Florida, Minnesota

Computer

1. Carnegie Mellon
2. MIT
3. Stanford
4. UC Berkeley
5. Georgia Tech
6. Michigan
7. Illinois
8. Cornell
9. UT Austin
10. Purdue, Washington
12. Princeton
13. UCLA
14. UC San Diego
15. UW Madison
16. Columbia, Ohio State
18. Texas A&M
19. Virginia Tech
20. Arizona State, Duke, Harvard
23. Penn State, Rice, Maryland, Penn

Electrical

1. MIT
2. UC Berkeley
3. Stanford
4. Georgia Tech
5. Illinois
6. Caltech
7. Michigan
8. Cornell
9. Carnegie Mellon
10. Purdue, UT Austin
12. Princeton, UCLA
14. UC San Diego
15. UW Madison
16. Columbia, Virginia Tech
18. Rice
19. UC Santa Barbara
20. Texas A&M

Environmental

1. Stanford
2. UC Berkeley
3. Illinois
4. Georgia Tech
5. UT Austin
6. MIT
7. Carnegie Mellon, Michigan
9. Cornell, Virginia Tech
11. Johns Hopkins
12. Purdue, Colorado
14. Duke
15. Princeton
16. UC Davis
17. Penn State, UW Madison
19. Caltech
20. Minnesota, Washington

Industrial, Manufacturing

1. Georgia Tech
2. Michigan
3. Purdue
4. UC Berkeley
5. Stanford
6. Virginia Tech
7. Northwestern
8. Cornell
9. Penn State, UW Madison
11. Texas A&M
12. NC State
13. Columbia
14. Ohio State, Illinois
16. USC

Materials

1. MIT
2. Michigan
3. Georgia Tech
4. Stanford
5. Northwestern, Illinois
7. UC Berkeley
8. Cornell, Caltech
10. UC Santa Barbara
11. Carnegie Mellon, Penn State
13. Purdue
14. Ohio State
15. UW Madison
16. Penn
17. Florida
18. Rice
19. NC State
20. Harvard, UT Austin
22. Minnesota

Mechanical

1. MIT
2. Georgia Tech
3. Stanford
4. UC Berkeley
5. Michigan
6. Caltech
7. Illinois
8. Purdue
9. Cornell
10. Carnegie Mellon
11. UT Austin
12. Northwestern
13. Princeton, Texas A&M
15. Virginia Tech
16. UCLA
17. Columbia, Penn State
19. UW Madison
20. Ohio State
21. Johns Hopkins
22. Penn
23. Duke, Rice
25. Brown, UC San Diego, Maryland

Petroleum

1. UT Austin
2. Texas A&M
3. Penn State

Kiplinger Best Value Publics 2018

One thing the annual Kiplinger Best College Values report tells us with regularity is that UNC Chapel Hill, Florida, and Virginia are wonderful values for both in-state and out-of-state (OOS) students. The three schools rank 1,2, and 3 in both categories for 2018 and are no strangers to lofty value rankings.

Rounding out the top 10 for in-state value are Michigan, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Washington, UT Austin, NC State, and Maryland.

The top 10 for OOS students are the aforementioned UNC Chapel Hill, Florida, and Virginia, followed by Florida State, UC Berkeley, Binghamton, NC State, Truman State, William and Mary, and Minnesota.

Below is a list of the top 25 best value public universities for in-state students:

UNC Chapel Hill
Florida
Virginia
Michigan
UC Berkeley
UCLA
Washington
UT Austin
NC State
Maryland
William and Mary
Georgia
UW Madison
Florida State
Purdue
New College Florida
Georgia Tech
Binghamton
Truman State
UC San Diego
New Mexico Inst Mining and Tech
UC Santa Barbara
Minnesota
Texas A&M
Ohio State

The Curious Case of U.S. News and the High School Counselor Metric

Except for the nuts and bolts metrics used by U.S. News in its annual college rankings (grad and retention rates, class sizes) all of the other ranking categories receive strong criticism from education writers and the academic community. A category since 2009, the high school counselor rankings of colleges’ reputations fly a bit under the radar. But the fact is, they do appear to have a curious impact on the rankings.

A recent, excellent article about the rankings on the website Politico argues that the counselor rankings rely heavily on “guidance counselors from highly ranked high schools, while many high schools in less affluent areas have few or no counselors.”

According the the Washington Post, the rankings do include “surveys of 2,200 counselors at public high schools, each of which was a gold, silver or bronze medal winner in the 2016 edition of the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings.” U.S. News also surveys “the largest private independent schools nationwide.”

This already elite group of respondents is even more restrictive than it seems: “The counselors’ one-year response rate was 7 percent for the spring 2017 surveys,” according to U.S News.

Using the nuts and bolts categories and reputation rankings alone, as in this recent post, and separating out the peer reputation rankings from the high school counselor rankings, we can see the impact the counselor rankings have.

Using a sample of 60 national universities that are either in the top 50 nationally or have at least 7 nationally rated academic departments, we found that the high school counselor rankings of private colleges were about 11% higher than those of university peer rankings of the same colleges. (Twenty-five of the schools are public, while 35 are private.)

The fact is, high school counselor rankings on the whole run higher than those of peer reviewers. But counselor rankings of public colleges were only 6.5% higher than peer rankings.

The main question at hand is, do these (few) counselors have more useful knowledge about national universities that peer reviewers have? Peer reviewers have a response rate of more than 40%; this much broader response rate (in absolute percentages and, almost certainly, demographically) should yield a more accurate assessment from peers. (Even more accurate would be the academic departmental rankings, but those are not included.)

Related questions are, how much marketing information do counselors receive, and do they receive a disproportionate share from private colleges? Do they tour private colleges more frequently? Peer reviewers are not without biases, either, but they are not recipients of marketing information from other colleges. Finally, do counselors rely more on…U.S. News rankings?

Again using the same data set we cite above, a side by side comparison of peer and counselor assessments reveals the following:

–Of the 14 universities that rose in rankings at least two places, three were public universities (21.4%) while 11 (78.6%) were private universities. (The percentage of universities in the sample is 41.7% public and 58.3% private.)

–Of the 17 universities that fell in rankings at least two places, 14 (82.4%) were public while three (17.6%) were private.

Below is a table showing the side-by-side comparison. Please bear in mind that the rankings are our adjusted rankings, not the actual U.S. News rankings.

University Peer Only Peer + Counselors Dif +,-
Princeton 1 1 0
Harvard 1 1 0
Yale 1 1 0
Stanford 4 5 -1
Columbia 4 4 0
MIT 4 6 -2
Chicago 7 7 0
Johns Hopkins 8 8 0
Caltech 9 9 0
Penn 9 9 0
Northwestern 11 11 0
Cornell 11 14 -3
Brown 11 11 0
UC Berkeley 11 16 -5
Duke 11 11 0
Dartmouth 16 14 2
Michigan 17 17 0
Vanderbilt 18 17 1
Carnegie Mellon 18 21 -3
Notre Dame 18 17 1
Rice 18 17 1
Virginia 18 21 -3
UCLA 23 25 -2
Wash U 23 21 2
Georgetown 23 21 2
USC 26 25 1
Emory 27 27 0
Georgia Tech 28 30 -2
North Carolina 28 28 0
Tufts 30 28 2
NYU 31 32 -1
Wisconsin 31 34 -3
Boston College 33 31 2
Brandeis 34 33 1
Wake Forest 34 34 0
Illinois 36 38 -2
Florida 36 36 0
Boston Univ 38 36 2
UC Davis 38 38 0
UT Austin 38 46 -8
UCSD 41 43 -2
Washington 41 46 -5
UC Irvine 43 38 5
Case Western 43 43 0
Maryland 43 43 0
Rochester 46 38 8
Ohio State 46 50 -4
Northeastern 48 38 10
UCSB 48 46 2
Penn State 48 50 -2
Tulane 51 46 5
RPI 52 50 2
Lehigh 53 50 3
Purdue 53 55 -2
U of Miami 55 54 1
Minnesota 55 56 -1
Pitt 57 56 1
Texas A&M 58 58 0
Michigan State 58 60 -2
Indiana 58 60 -2
Rutgers New Bruns 61 58 3

 

U.S. News Rankings, Minus the Financial Padding Metrics

The critics of the annual–and hugely popular–U.S. News Best Colleges rankings are vocal, large in number, well-armed with data, and mostly unavailing. Here is another attempt, based on the idea that the “financial” metrics used in the rankings distort the results. If Harvard has a zillion dollars, Harvard will have smaller classes than Mammoth State University with its meager funding per student. But why give Harvard credit for the zillion dollars and the smaller classes, when the smaller classes are the “output” that really matters?

So…the adjusted rankings below use the major non-financial metrics only: Peer assessment of academic reputation; high school counselor recommendations; graduation rates; retention rates; and class sizes. No acceptance rates or test score-related metrics are used. The impact of both are reflected in the output metric of graduation rates. (A separate post will discuss the curious disparities in high school counselor recommendations.)

Each of the universities on the list is in the top 50 in the 2018 U.S. News rankings with at least 7 ranked departments or has an aggregate academic department ranking of 50 or better across a minimum of 7 departments. The departments ranked are business and engineering (undergrad); biology, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, economics, education, English, history, math, physics, political science, psychology, and sociology (graduate level).

Therefore, even though department ranking data are not included in the adjusted rankings below, they are used as part of the eligibility requirements for inclusion.

Below are the adjusted rankings of 60 national universities, in the order of the adjusted ranking. Also shown are the U.S. News rankings for 2018 and the difference between the adjusted rankings and those of the magazine.  We used data from U.S News for the categories listed above, with the same weight assigned to each category. All categories were then standardized and aggregated. After the first fifteen or so schools, some of the disparities are striking, especially for the last half.

University Adj Rank US News Dif +, –
Yale 1 3 2
Harvard 1 2 1
Princeton 1 1 0
Columbia 4 5 1
Stanford 5 5 0
MIT 6 5 -1
Chicago 7 3 -4
Johns Hopkins 8 11 3
Penn 9 8 -1
Caltech 9 10 1
Brown 11 14 3
Northwestern 11 11 0
Duke 11 9 -2
Dartmouth 14 11 -3
Cornell 14 14 0
UC Berkeley 16 21 5
Notre Dame 17 18 1
Rice 17 14 -3
Vanderbilt 17 14 -3
Michigan 17 28 11
Georgetown 21 20 -1
Carnegie Mellon 21 25 4
Virginia 21 25 4
Wash U 21 18 -3
UCLA 25 21 -4
USC 25 21 -4
Emory 27 21 -6
Tufts 28 29 1
North Carolina 28 30 2
Georgia Tech 30 34 4
Boston College 31 32 1
NYU 32 30 -2
Brandeis 33 34 1
Wake Forest 34 27 -7
Wisconsin 34 46 12
Boston Univ 36 37 1
Florida 36 42 6
Illinois 38 52 14
Northeastern 38 40 2
Rochester 38 34 -4
UC Irvine 38 42 4
UC Davis 38 46 8
UCSD 43 42 -1
Maryland 43 61 18
Case Western 43 37 -6
UT Austin 46 56 10
Washington 46 56 10
UCSB 46 37 -9
Tulane 46 40 -6
Ohio State 50 54 4
Lehigh 50 46 -4
RPI 50 42 -8
Penn State 50 52 2
U of Miami 54 46 -8
Purdue 55 56 1
Pitt 56 68 12
Minnesota 56 69 13
Rutgers 58 69 11
Texas A&M 58 69 11
Michigan State 60 81 21
Indiana 60 90 30

 

U.S. News Rankings for 57 Leading Universities, 1983–2007

Below are the U.S. News rankings from 1983 through 2007 for 57 leading national universities. For additional U.S. News rankings, please see U.S. News Rankings, 2008 through 2015, and Average U.S. News Rankings for 129 National Universities, 2011 to 2018.

Especially notable in the list below are the changes in major public universities.

Included here are institutions that were, at some point, ranked in the top 50 in those two categories. Some values are blank because in those years the magazine did not give individual rankings to every institution, instead listing them in large groups described as “quartiles” or “tiers.” The rankings shown for 1983 and 1985 are the ones that U.S. News published in its magazine in those same years. For all subsequent years, the rankings come from U.S. News’s separate annual publication “America’s Best Colleges”, which applies rankings for the upcoming year.

Here is the list:

 Year 83 85 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Stanford University 1 1 1 6 6 2 3 4 6 5 4 6 5 4 6 6 5 4 5 5 5 4
Harvard University 2 2 2 4 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 1 1 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 2
Yale University 3 2 3 1 1 3 2 3 3 3 2 1 3 1 4 2 2 2 3 3 3 3
Princeton University 4 4 4 2 2 4 4 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
University of California at Berkeley 5 7 5 24 13 13 16 16 19 23 26 27 23 22 20 20 20 20 21 21 20 21
University of Chicago 6 5 8 10 9 11 10 9 9 10 11 12 14 14 13 10 9 12 13 14 15 9
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor 7 8 25 17 21 22 24 23 21 24 24 23 25 25 25 25 25 25 22 25 24
Cornell University 8 11 14 11 9 12 11 10 15 13 14 14 6 11 10 14 14 14 14 13 12
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 8 20 45 50 45 42 34 41 36 38 40 37 42 41
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10 11 5 7 6 6 5 4 4 5 5 6 4 3 5 5 4 4 5 7 4
Dartmouth College 10 10 6 7 8 8 8 7 8 8 7 7 7 10 11 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
California Institute of Technology 12 21 3 4 5 4 5 5 7 7 9 9 9 1 4 4 4 5 8 7 4
Carnegie Mellon University 13 22 24 19 24 24 23 28 23 25 23 23 22 21 23 22 22 21
University of Wisconsin at Madison 13 23 32 41 38 36 34 35 32 31 32 32 34 34
Case Western Reserve University 35 38 37 34 34 38 38 37 37 35 37 38
Tulane University 38 36 34 36 44 45 46 43 44 43 43 44
University of California at Irvine 48 37 41 36 49 41 41 45 45 43 40 44
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 39 48 49 49 48 47 48 46 43 42
University of Washington 50 42 44 45 45 47 45 46 45 42
University of Rochester 25 29 30 31 29 32 33 36 36 35 37 34 34
University of California at San Diego 43 34 33 32 32 31 31 31 32 35 32 38
Georgia Institute of Technology 42 48 41 46 40 35 41 38 37 41 37 38
Yeshiva University 45 48 42 44 45 41 40 40 46 45 44
Pennsylvania State University at University Park 41 45 44 40 44 46 45 48 50 48 47
Worcester Polytechnic Institute 48 55 55 53 64
Rutgers University at New Brunswick 45 60 58 60 60
Texas A&M University at College Station 48 48 67 62 60 60
Pepperdine University 49 48 47 51 52 55 54
Syracuse University 49 44 40 47 55 52 50 52
George Washington University 46 50 51 52 53 52
University of Florida 47 49 48 50 50 47
University of California at Santa Barbara 46 47 47 44 45 48 47 45 45 45 47
University of California at Davis 40 40 41 44 42 41 41 43 43 42 48 47
University of Texas at Austin 25 44 49 48 47 53 46 52 47
New York University 36 35 34 35 34 33 32 35 35 32 37 34
Boston College 37 38 38 36 39 38 38 40 40 37 40 34
Emory University 25 22 21 25 16 17 19 9 16 18 18 18 18 18 20 20 18
Vanderbilt University 24 19 25 20 18 22 20 19 20 20 22 21 21 19 18 18 18
Rice University 14 9 10 16 15 12 14 12 16 16 17 18 14 13 12 15 16 17 17 17
Johns Hopkins University 16 11 14 15 11 15 15 22 10 15 14 14 7 15 16 15 14 14 13 16
Brown University 7 10 13 15 12 17 18 12 11 9 8 9 10 14 15 16 17 17 13 15 15
Northwestern University 17 16 19 23 14 13 13 14 13 9 9 10 14 13 12 10 11 11 12 14
Washington University in St. Louis 23 19 22 24 18 20 18 20 20 17 17 16 17 15 14 12 9 11 11 12
Columbia University 18 8 11 10 9 10 11 9 15 11 9 10 10 10 9 10 11 9 9 9
Duke University 6 7 12 5 7 7 7 7 6 6 4 3 6 7 8 8 4 5 5 5 8
University of Notre Dame 18 23 25 19 18 17 19 18 19 19 19 18 19 18 18 20
Georgetown University 17 25 19 19 17 17 25 21 23 21 20 23 23 22 24 23 25 23 23
Lehigh University 33 32 34 36 34 38 38 40 37 37 32 33
Brandeis University 30 29 28 31 31 31 34 31 32 32 34 31
College of William and Mary 22 34 33 32 33 29 30 30 30 31 31 31 31
Wake Forest University 31 25 28 29 28 28 26 25 28 27 27 30
Tufts University 25 22 23 25 29 29 28 28 27 28 27 27
University of Southern California 44 43 41 41 42 35 34 31 30 30 30 27
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 9 11 23 18 20 25 27 25 27 24 27 25 28 28 29 29 27 27
University of California at Los Angeles 21 16 17 23 23 22 28 31 28 25 25 25 26 25 26 25 25 26
University of Virginia 15 20 21 18 21 22 21 17 19 21 21 22 22 20 24 23 21 22 23 24
University of Pennsylvania 19 15 20 13 13 14 16 12 11 13 7 6 7 6 5 4 5 4 4 7

Money Magazine Best Values 2017: CUNY Baruch, Michigan, UC’s, UVA Lead Publics

The new rankings from Money are out, and public colleges and universities account for 27 of the top 50 best values in 2017. These rankings are likely the best college rankings overall, given their balanced approach.

As Jeffrey J. Selingo writes in the Washington Post, the earnings portion of the rankings are based in part on some very interesting new evidence: the “Chelly data.”

“That refers to Raj Chetty,” Selingo tells us, “a Stanford professor, who has led a team of economists that has received access to millions of anonymous tax records that span generations. The group has published several headline-grabbing studies recently based on the data. In findings published in January, the group tracked students from nearly every college in the country and measured their earnings more than a decade after they left campus, whether they graduated or not.

Money does a better job of ranking colleges based on “outcomes” than Forbes does (see Outcomes farther down). This is especially the case with the multiple earnings analyses.

To see the list of top publics, please skip the methodology discussion immediately below.

 

The 2017 rankings include 27 factors in three categories:

Quality of education (1/3 weighting), which was calculated using:

Six-year graduation rate (30%).

Value-added graduation rate (30%). “This is the difference between a school’s actual graduation rate and its expected rate, based on the economic and academic profile of the student body (measured by the percentage of attendees receiving Pell grants, which are given to low-income students, and the average standardized test scores of incoming freshmen).” [Emphasis added.]

“Peer quality (10%). This is measured by the standardized test scores of entering freshman (5%), and the percentage of accepted students who enroll in that college, known as the “yield” rate (5%).” Note: using the yield rate is an improvement over the U.S. News rankings.

“Instructor quality (10%). This measured by the student-to-faculty ratio.” Note: this is very similar to a U.S. News metric.

“Financial troubles (20%). This is a new factor added in 2017, as financial difficulties can affect the quality of education, and a growing number of schools are facing funding challenges.” Note: although this is not an “outcome” either, it is more meaningful than using data on alumni contributions, etc.

Affordability (1/3 weighting), which was calculated using:

“Net price of a degree (30%). This is the estimated amount a typical freshman starting in 2017 will pay to earn a degree, taking into account the college’s sticker price; how much the school awards in grants and scholarships; and the average time it takes students to graduate from the school, all as reported to the U.S. Department of Education….This takes into account both the estimated average student debt upon graduation (15%) and average amount borrowed through the parent federal PLUS loan programs (5%).

“Student loan repayment and default risk (15%).

“Value-added student loan repayment measures (15%). These are the school’s performance on the student loan repayment and default measures after adjusting for the economic and academic profile of the student body.

Affordability for low-income students (20%). This is based on federally collected data on the net price that students from families earning $0 to $30,000 pay.

Outcomes (1/3 weighting), which was calculated using:

“Graduates’ earnings (12.5%), as reported by alumni to PayScale.com; early career earnings within five years of graduation (7.5%), and mid-career earnings, which are for those whose education stopped at a Bachelor’s degree and graduated, typically, about 15 years ago. (5%).

“Earnings adjusted by majors (15%). To see whether students at a particular school earn more or less than would be expected given the subjects students choose to study, we adjusted PayScale.com’s data for the mix of majors at each school; for early career earnings (10%) and mid-career earnings (5%).

“College Scorecard 10-year earnings (10%). The earnings of federal financial aid recipients at each college as reported to the IRS 10 years after the student started at the college.

“Estimated market value of alumni’s average job skills (10%). Based on a Brookings Institution methodology, we matched up data provided by LinkedIn of the top 25 skills reported by each school’s alumni with Burning Glass Technologies data on the market value each listed skill.

“Value-added earnings (12.5%). To see if a school is helping launch students to better-paying jobs than competitors that take in students with similar academic and economic backgrounds, we adjusted PayScale.com’s earnings data for the student body’s average test scores and the percentage of low-income students at each school; for early career earnings (7.5%) and mid-career earnings (5%).

Job meaning (5%). We used the average score of each school’s alumni on PayScale.com’s survey question of “Does your work make the world a better place?”

“Socio-economic mobility index (20%).

For the first time, we included new data provided by the Equality of Opportunity Project that reveals the percentage of students each school move from low-income backgrounds to upper-middle class jobs by the time the student is 34 years old.Finally, we used statistical techniques to turn all the data points into a single score and ranked the schools based on those scores.” [Emphasis added.]

The inclusion of these metrics makes the Money rankings a hybrid of the Washington Monthly “public good” rankings, U.S. News, and Kiplinger rankings, with the socio-economic factors having a less significant impact than the Washington Monthly rankings on overall standing. Still, these factors do result in two CUNY campuses’ receiving high rankings.

“The data showed, for example,” Selingo writes, “that the City University of New York propelled almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses, plus Duke, M.I.T., Stanford and Chicago, combined. The California State University system advanced three times as many.”

TOP PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES, MONEY MAGAZINE, 2017, BY NAME AND OVERALL RANK INCLUDING PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS:

CUNY Baruch College–2
Michigan–3
UC Berkeley–4
UCLA–5
UC Irvine–7
UC Davis–9
Virginia–11
Washington–13
Georgia Tech–16
Florida–18
Maryland–20
Illinois–22
Virginia Tech–23
College of New Jersey–24
UC Riverside–29
Michigan State–30
UT Austin–31
Binghamton–33
Texas A&M–34
UC Santa Barbara–36
Connecticut–37
Purdue–37 (tie)
VMI–41
Cal State Long Beach–42
CUNY Brooklyn–43
UW Madison–45
James Madison–46
Rutgers, New Brunswick–49
NC State–50

 

Southeast, West Coast Colleges: Top Public Values in Kiplinger Report

The Kiplinger Best Value College Index methodology emphasizes a “quality” side in relation to the “cost” side of a university. The quality side includes selectivity, retention, and four-year grad rates, while the cost side takes tuition, fees, merit aid, need-based aid, and post-graduation debt into account.

For the 16th straight year, UNC Chapel Hill leads as the best public value for both in-state and out-of-state (OOS) applicants.

The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic account for 10 of the top 25 best public value schools. West coast universities in the UC system along with the University of Washington account for another half dozen in the top 25.

In the middle, so to speak, are traditionally strong publics including Michigan, UW Madison, Illinois, UT Austin, Minnesota, and Ohio State.

Acceptance rates vary widely among the top value schools, from a low of 15 and 17 percent at UC Berkeley and UCLA respectively, to a high of 66 percent at Illinois.

Other publics with relative low acceptance rates include Michigan (26 percent); Cal Poly (31 percent); Georgia Tech (32 percent); UC Santa Barbara (33 percent); UC San Diego (34 percent); and UC Irvine and UT Austin (39 percent).

Below are the top 25 in-state public values, with the OOS ranking and Acceptance Rate listed as well.

University In State OOS Accept Rate
UNC Chapel Hill 1 1 30
Virginia 2 2 30
UC Berkeley 3 7 15
William and Mary 4 6 34
Michigan 5 13 26
UCLA 6 14 17
Florida 7 3 48
Maryland 8 10 45
Georgia Tech 9 15 32
Georgia 10 11 53
UW Madison 11 18 49
Washington 12 24 53
UT Austin 13 26 39
UC Santa Barbara 14 28 33
Binghamton 15 8 42
Illinois 16 20 66
UC San Diego 17 31 34
NC State 18 9 50
New College Florida 19 21 61
Minnesota 20 4 45
Cal Poly 21 17 31
Ohio State 22 19 49
UC Irvine 23 44 39
Clemson 24 29 51
Miami Ohio 25 33 65