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

 

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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

Top Honors Programs, Honors Components Only

So, what do we mean by “honors components only”?

In our latest book of honors program ratings, we listed the honors programs and colleges that received an overall five “mortarboard” rating. One component of the rating model used in order to determine the leading programs is prestigious scholarships–the number of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman, Goldwater, etc., awards earned by students from each university as a whole.

In most cases, honors programs at these universities contribute most of the winners of these awards, but not in all cases. So while the prestigious scholarship component is worth including, we do not want it to override the 12 other rating components used in the ratings. These components are “honors only” because they do not include awards earned by non-honors students of the university as a whole.

Therefore, we decided to do a separate rating, one that is not included in the new book, INSIDE HONORS. The new rating uses only the 12 components listed below. Farther down,  you can see whether the prestigious scholarship component had a major impact on the overall ratings of top programs.

Those 12 additional components are…

  • Curriculum Requirements
  • Number of Honors Classes
  • Number of Honors Classes in 15 Key Disciplines
  • Extent of Honors Enrollment
  • Average Class Size, Honors-only Sections
  • Overall Average Class Size, All Sections
  • Honors Graduation Rate-Raw
  • Honors Graduation Rate-Adjusted for Test Scores
  • Student to Staff Ratio
  • Type and Extent of Priority Registration
  • Honors Residence Halls, Amenities
  • Honors Residence Halls, Availability

Below is a comparison of the honors programs that received a five mortarboard OVERALL RATING (left side) and those that receive the same rating for HONORS COMPONENTS ONLY (right side), all listed ALPHABETICALLY.

OVERALL FIVE MORTARBOARDS HONORS ONLY COMPONENTS, FIVE MORTARBOARDS
Arizona St Clemson
Clemson CUNY Macaulay
CUNY Macaulay Georgia
Georgia Houston
Houston Kansas
Kansas New Jersey Inst Tech
New Jersey Inst Tech Oregon
Oregon Penn St
Penn St South Carolina
South Carolina Temple
UT Austin UT Austin

It is notable that the overlap is almost identical: Arizona State is not on the second list, while Temple is not on the OVERALL list but is on the HONORS COMPONENTS list.

We must add that Temple barely missed a five mortarboard overall rating, while ASU was similarly close to making the honors components list.

New U.S. College Rankings: Wall St Journal Partners with Times Highered

Whether we need it or not, there is a new ranking on the scene, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings 2017.

There are some interesting features, and the rankings are certainly worth a look.

The rankings combine national universities and liberal arts colleges into one group, and in this way resemble the Forbes rankings. And, also like the Forbes rankings, the salaries earned by graduates also count as a metric, 12% of the total in the WSJ/THE rankings.

Farther down, we will list the top 100 colleges in the rankings. Only 20 of the top 100 schools are public; 31 are liberal arts colleges; and the remaining 49 are elite private universities. This is not much of a surprise, given that financial resources are a major ranking category.

Before listing the top 100, we will list another group of schools that have the best combined scores in what we consider to be the two most important umbrella categories in the rankings, accounting for 60% of the total: “Engagement” and “Output.”

Engagement (20% of total, as broken out below):

A. Student engagement: 7%. This metric is generated from the average scores per College from four questions on the student survey:

  1. To what extent does the teaching at your university or college support CRITICAL THINKING?
  2. To what extent did the classes you took in your college or university so far CHALLENGE YOU?
  3. To what extent does the teaching at your university or college support REFLECTION UPON, OR MAKING CONNECTIONS AMONG, things you have learned?
  4. To what extent does the teaching at your university or college support APPLYING YOUR LEARNING to the real world?

B. Student recommendation: 6%. This metric is generated from the average score per College from the following question on the student survey:

  1. If a friend or family member were considering going to university, based on your experience, how likely or unlikely are you to RECOMMEND your college or university to them?

C. Interactions with teachers and faculty: 4%. This metric is generated from the average scores per College from two questions on the student survey:

  1. To what extent do you have the opportunity to INTERACT WITH THE FACULTY and teachers at your college or university as part of your learning experience?
  2. To what extent does your college or university provide opportunities for COLLABORATIVE LEARNING?

D. Number of accredited programs (by CIP code): 3%. This metric is IPEDS standardized number of Bachelor’s degree programs offered.

Output (40% of the total, as broken out below):

A. Graduation rate: 11%. This metric is 150% of the graduation rate status as of 31 August 2014 for the cohort of full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates, Bachelor’s or equivalent sub-cohort.

B. Graduate salary: 12%. This metric estimates the outcome of median earnings of students working and not enrolled 10 years after entry.

C. Loan default/repayment rates: 7%. This metric estimates the outcome of the 3-year repayment rate from College Scorecard data. The value added component is the difference between actual and predicted (based on underlying student and College characteristics) outcomes.

D. Reputation: 10%. This metric is the number of votes obtained from the reputation survey, and is calculated as the number of US teaching votes from the reputation survey and the number of US-only teaching votes from country section of the reputation survey.

The two remaining umbrella categories measure Financial Resources, including the amount spent per student; and the Environment, including the diversity of enrolled students (or faculty) across various ethnic groups. You can find a summary of the methodology here.

Here are the 23 colleges that scored at least 17.0 (out of 20) in Engagement and at least 30.0 (out of 40.0) in Output, listed in order of their overall place in the WSJ/TimesHigherEd rankings:

Stanford–Ranking 1; Engagement 17.4; Output 39.4

Penn–Ranking 4; Engagement 17.6; Output 39.0

Duke–Ranking 7; Engagement 17.2; Output 39.3

Cornell–Ranking 9; Engagement 17.3; Output 38.2

WUSTL–Ranking 11; Engagement 17.5; Output 38.6

Northwestern–Ranking 13; Engagement 17.1; Output 37.8

Carnegie Mellon–Ranking 19; Engagement 17.2; Output 37.0

Brown–Ranking 20; Engagement 17.5; Output 35.7

Vanderbilt–Ranking 21; Engagement 17.2; Output 38.8

Michigan–Ranking 24; Engagement 17.4; Output 37.2

Notre Dame–Ranking 25; Engagement 17.4; Output 37.0

Swarthmore–Ranking 34; Engagement 17.7; Output 31.0

Smith–Ranking 35; Engagement 17.1; Output 31.3

Univ of Miami–Ranking 37; Engagement 17.5; Output 30.8

Purdue–Ranking 37; Engagement 17.2; Output 34.1

UC Davis–Ranking 43; Engagement 17.1; Output 33.8

Illinois–Ranking 48; Engagement 17.1; Output 35.6

UT Austin–Ranking 51; Engagement 17.3; Output 33.3

Florida–Ranking 56; Engagement 17.1; Output 35.6

Pitt–Ranking 59; Engagement 17.0; Output 32

Michigan State–Ranking 63; Engagement 17.7; Output 32.9

Wisconsin–Ranking 67; Engagement 17.2; Output 33.5

Texas A&M–Ranking 81; Engagement 17.6; Output 31.7

Below are the top 100 colleges in the new rankings:

1. Stanford
2. MIT
3. Columbia
4. Penn
5. Yale
6. Harvard
7. Duke
8. Princeton
9. Cornell
10. Caltech
11. Johns Hopkins
11. WUSTL
13. Northwestern
13. Chicago
15. USC
16. Dartmouth
17. Emory
18. Rice
19. Carnegie Mellon
20. Brown
21. Vanderbilt
22. Williams
23. Amherst
24. Michigan
25. Notre Dame
26. UCLA
27. Tufts
28. Pomona
29. Georgetown
30. North Carolina
30. Wellesley
32. Case Western
33. NYU
34. Swarthmore
35. Smith
36. Middlebury
37. UC Berkeley
37. Carleton
37. Haverford
37. Univ of Miami
37. Purdue
42. Boston University
43. UC Davis
44. Bowdoin
45. Wesleyan
46. Claremont McKenna
47. Bryn Mawr
48. Illinois
49. UC San Diego
50. Lehigh
51. Georgia Tech
51. UT Austin
53. Bucknell
54. Colgate
54. Wake Forest
56. Virginia
56. Florida
58. Rochester
59. Pitt
60. Hamilton
61. Washington
62. Oberlin
63. Boston College
63. Michigan State
65. Trinity College (Conn.)
66. Colby
67. George Washington
67. Macalester
67. Wisconsin
70. WPI
71. Ohio State
72. Northeastern
73. Lafayette
73. Trinity (TX)
75. Tulane
75. Vassar
77. Davidson
78. Grinnell
78. RPI
80. Barnard
80. Texas A&M
82. Drexel
83. Denison
84. Occidental
84. Richmond
86. SMU
87. Howard
88. Holy Cross
89. Brandeis
90. Denver
91. De Pauw
92. Rose-Hulman
93. William and Mary
94. Kenyon
95. Bentley
96. Connecticut College
96. Penn State
96. Scripps College
99. Stevens Inst Tech
100. Maryland

 

 

 

Average U.S. News Rankings for 129 Universities: 2011-2018

Updated on September 12, 2017, to include new U.S. News rankings for 2018.  Listed below are the yearly rankings and overall average rankings of 129 national universities that were included in the first tier of the U.S. News Best Colleges from 2011 through 2018. There are 64 public and 65 private universities. The list below not only shows the average rankings over this eight-year period but also lists the number of places lost or gained by each university.

As a group, the private universities have had an average increase in the rankings of .15 places, while the public universities have had an average decline of 1.7, demonstrating what we have observed in the past–public universities are, in general, not on an upward trajectory in the rankings. Yet this is something of an improvement over the last set we published, covering the years 2010–2017. That set show that public universities lost an average five placed during that eight-year period while private colleges gain two places.

A big reason for the negative impact on public university rankings is surely the severe budget cuts by legislatures across the country in the wake of the Great Recession. As economic times improve, one would hope that much more of the state funding will be restored. But, realistically, that is not likely to happen, and increasing reliance on private funds by public colleges appears to be the only way not to fall behind–or, at least, not to fall farther behind.

The rate of decline in public university rankings appears to be improving, except that in absolute terms the average rankings remain significantly lower than in 2009.

While we appreciate the massive amount of data that the U.S. News rankings provide on class sizes, grad rates, retention rates, and even selectivity, on the whole the rankings fail to evaluate efficiency (the number of students who receive a high-quality education at a relatively low cost) and should not use selectivity and wealth as metrics.

One reason for the sudden rise in a school’s ranking is increased “gaming” of the rankings. Some institutions, public and private, but mostly the latter, have geared their marketing and merit aid to increase the number of applicants and lower their acceptance rates accordingly. This makes them more “selective” and helps to improve their rankings.

Northeastern University, for example, has risen 40 places in the rankings since 2010, and 56 places since 2008.  How likely is it that in such a short period of time Northeastern has actually improved so dramatically, from 96th to 40th? (The ranking did, however, drop one place (39 to 40) from 2017 to 2018.

We will try to explore further “gaming” scenarios, but for 2018 the most notable changes, up or down, follow. Note: We are not asserting that the gains below are due to “gaming,” although, in part, they may be. Although the overall average for public universities has fallen, several public institutions have had sizable gains. It should be noted, however, that many with such gains were ranked extremely low in 2011, thus allowing more room for improvement.

Up since 2011: NC State +30; Northeastern +29; UMass Amherst +28; Arizona State +24; Florida State +23; SUNY Buffalo +23; TCU +21; Boston University +19; Stevens Inst of Tech +17; Brigham Young +14; Loyola Chicago +14; Oklahoma +14; UConn +13; Tulane +11; Florida +11.  We do know that the state of Florida has made a strong effort to raise the profile of their leading universities.

Down since 2011: Yeshia -44 (how is this possible?); Alabama -31; UC Riverside -30; Missouri -26; Dayton -25; Iowa State -21; Nebraska -20; Auburn -18; Marquette -15; Indiana -15; Kansas -11; Pacific -11; UT Austin -11. (UT Austin struggles with grad rates; one reason might be rule that the top 7%-8% of students, by class rank, make up 75% of total admits, even with significantly lower test scores than other applicants from highly competitive high schools that do not make the top 7%-8%.)

The U.S. News rankings not only over-emphasize the metrics related to a university’s financial resources but also, especially in the last five years or so, reward selectivity when, in fact, the results of the selectivity are already considered. Why should Stanford be rewarded for having an acceptance rate o f 5% and be rewarded for having high graduation and retention rates, both of which are largely the result of selectivity. Using test scores as a factor in predicting what grad rates should be is fine, as is rewarding or penalizing schools for exceeding or not meeting such predictions. But the high scores themselves and the low acceptance percentages merely duplicate what is more properly measured by outcomes.

We will have more to say on these issues in the future. But for now, here are the historical rankings, the average of each school across eight years, and the increase or decline of each school from 2011 through 2018. The universities are listed in order of their average ranking across the years.

Here is the list.

US News 2011–2018 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Avg Rank Chg 2011
to 2018
Princeton 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.125 1
Harvard 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 1.625 -1
Yale 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 0
Columbia 4 4 4 4 4 4 5 5 4.25 -1
Chicago 9 5 4 5 4 4 3 3 4.625 6
Stanford 5 5 6 5 4 4 5 5 4.875 0
MIT 7 5 6 7 7 7 7 5 6.375 2
Penn 5 5 8 7 8 9 8 8 7.25 -3
Duke 9 10 8 7 8 8 8 9 8.375 0
Caltech 7 5 10 10 10 10 12 10 9.25 -3
Dartmouth 9 11 10 10 11 12 11 11 10.625 -2
Johns Hopkins 13 13 13 12 12 10 10 11 11.75 2
Northwestern 12 12 12 12 13 12 12 11 12 1
Brown 15 15 15 14 16 14 14 14 14.625 1
Cornell 15 15 15 16 15 15 15 14 15 1
Washington Univ 13 14 14 14 14 15 19 18 15.125 -5
Vanderbilt 17 17 17 17 16 15 15 14 16 3
Rice 17 17 17 18 19 18 15 14 16.875 3
Notre Dame 19 19 17 18 16 18 15 18 17.5 1
Emory 20 20 20 20 21 21 20 21 20.375 -1
UC Berkeley 22 21 21 20 20 20 20 21 20.625 1
Georgetown 21 22 21 20 21 21 20 20 20.75 1
USC 23 23 24 23 25 23 23 21 23.125 2
UCLA 25 25 24 23 23 23 24 21 23.5 4
Carnegie Mellon 23 23 23 23 25 23 24 25 23.625 -2
Virginia 25 25 24 23 23 26 24 25 24.375 0
Wake Forest 25 25 27 23 27 27 27 27 26 -2
Tufts 28 29 28 28 27 27 27 29 27.875 -1
Michigan 29 28 29 28 29 29 27 28 28.375 1
North Carolina 30 29 30 30 30 30 30 30 29.875 0
Boston College 31 31 31 31 31 30 31 32 31 -1
NYU 33 33 32 32 32 32 36 30 32.5 3
William & Mary 31 33 33 32 33 34 32 32 32.5 -1
Brandeis 34 31 33 32 35 34 34 34 33.375 0
Rochester 37 35 33 32 33 33 32 34 33.625 3
Georgia Tech 35 36 36 36 36 36 34 34 35.375 1
Case Western 41 38 37 37 38 37 37 37 37.75 4
UC San Diego 35 37 38 39 37 39 44 42 38.875 -7
UC Santa Barbara 39 42 41 41 40 37 37 37 39.25 2
UC Davis 39 38 38 39 38 41 44 46 40.375 -7
Lehigh 37 38 38 41 40 47 44 46 41.375 -9
RPI 41 50 41 41 42 41 39 42 42.125 -1
UC Irvine 41 45 44 49 42 39 39 42 42.625 -1
UW Madison 45 42 41 41 47 41 44 46 43.375 -1
Illinois 47 45 46 41 42 41 44 52 44.75 -5
Boston Univ 56 53 51 41 42 41 39 37 45 19
U of Miami 47 38 44 47 48 51 44 46 45.625 1
Penn State 47 45 46 37 48 47 50 52 46.5 -5
Tulane 51 50 51 52 54 41 39 40 47.25 11
Washington 41 42 46 52 48 52 54 56 48.875 -15
Florida 53 58 54 49 48 47 50 42 50.125 11
Northeastern 69 62 56 49 42 47 39 40 50.5 29
UT Austin 45 45 46 52 53 52 56 56 50.625 -11
Pepperdine 53 55 54 57 54 52 50 46 52.625 7
George Washington 51 50 51 52 54 57 56 56 53.375 -5
Ohio St 56 55 56 52 54 52 54 54 54.125 2
Yeshiva 50 45 46 47 48 52 66 94 56 -44
Fordham 56 53 58 57 58 66 60 61 58.625 -5
Maryland 56 55 58 62 62 57 60 61 58.875 -5
SMU 56 62 58 60 58 61 56 61 59 -5
Georgia 56 62 63 60 62 61 56 54 59.25 2
Syracuse 55 62 58 62 58 61 60 61 59.625 -6
Connecticut 69 58 63 57 58 57 60 56 59.75 13
Purdue 56 62 65 68 62 61 60 56 61.25 0
WPI 64 62 65 62 68 57 60 61 62.375 3
Pitt 64 58 58 62 62 66 68 68 63.25 -4
Clemson 64 68 68 62 62 61 66 67 64.75 -3
Brigham Young 75 71 68 62 62 66 68 61 66.625 14
Texas A&M 63 58 65 69 68 70 74 69 67 -6
Minnesota 64 68 68 69 71 69 71 69 68.625 -5
Rutgers 64 68 68 69 70 72 70 69 68.75 -5
Virginia Tech 69 71 72 69 71 70 74 69 70.625 0
Baylor 79 75 77 75 71 72 71 75 74.375 4
American 79 82 77 75 71 72 71 69 74.5 10
Iowa 72 71 72 73 71 82 82 78 75.125 -6
Delaware 75 75 75 75 76 75 79 81 76.375 -6
Michigan St 79 71 72 73 85 75 82 81 77.25 -2
Stevens Inst Tech 86 88 75 82 76 75 71 69 77.75 17
Col School of Mines 72 75 77 91 88 75 82 75 79.375 -3
Indiana 75 75 83 75 76 75 86 90 79.375 -15
UC Santa Cruz 72 75 77 86 85 82 79 81 79.625 -9
Clark 86 94 83 75 76 75 74 81 80.5 5
Miami Oh 79 90 89 75 76 82 79 78 81 1
Marquette 75 82 83 75 76 86 86 90 81.625 -15
UMass Amherst 99 94 97 91 76 75 74 75 85.125 24
Tulsa 93 75 83 86 88 86 86 87 85.5 6
TCU 99 97 92 82 76 82 82 78 86 21
Denver 86 82 83 91 88 86 86 87 86.125 -1
Binghamton 86 88 89 97 88 89 86 87 88.75 -1
Vermont 94 82 92 82 85 89 92 97 89.125 -3
Alabama 79 75 77 86 88 96 103 110 89.25 -31
Colorado 86 94 97 86 88 89 92 90 90.25 -4
San Diego 94 97 92 91 95 89 86 90 91.75 4
Drexel 86 88 83 97 95 99 96 94 92.25 -8
St. Louis 86 88 92 101 99 96 96 94 94 -8
Auburn 85 82 89 91 103 102 99 103 94.25 -18
Stony Brook 99 111 92 82 88 89 96 97 94.25 2
Florida St 104 101 97 91 95 96 92 81 94.625 23
NC State 111 101 106 101 95 89 92 81 97 30
Missouri 94 90 97 97 99 103 111 120 101.375 -26
New Hampshire 104 101 106 97 99 103 107 103 102.5 1
Tennessee 104 101 101 101 106 103 103 103 102.75 1
Iowa St 94 94 101 101 106 108 111 115 103.75 -21
Oklahoma 111 101 101 101 106 108 111 97 104.5 14
Nebraska 104 101 101 101 99 103 111 124 105.5 -20
Univ at Buffalo 120 111 106 109 103 99 99 97 105.5 23
Loyola Chicago 117 119 106 101 106 99 99 103 106.25 14
Oregon 111 101 115 109 106 103 103 103 106.375 8
Pacific 99 101 106 112 116 108 111 110 107.875 -11
Kansas 104 101 106 101 106 115 118 115 108.25 -11
Dayton 99 101 115 112 103 108 111 124 109.125 -25
Illinois Tech 111 111 113 109 116 108 103 103 109.25 8
South Carolina 111 111 115 112 113 108 107 103 110 8
UC Riverside 94 97 101 112 113 121 118 124 110 -30
Michigan Tech 117 111 120 117 116 123 118 124 118.25 -7
Catholic 120 119 120 121 116 123 124 120 120.375 0
Clarkson 124 119 115 121 121 115 129 124 121 0
Arizona 120 124 120 119 121 121 124 124 121.625 -4
Howard 104 111 120 142 145 135 124 110 123.875 -6
Colorado St 124 128 134 121 121 127 129 124 126 0
Kentucky 129 124 125 119 129 129 133 133 127.625 -4
Arizona St 143 132 139 142 129 129 129 115 132.25 28
Arkansas 132 132 134 128 135 129 135 133 132.25 -1
AVERAGES 61.60976 -0.54472

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update No. 3: The 2016 Edition Is Coming Soon, with Important Changes

By John Willingham, Editor

The 2016 edition will have a new name– Inside Honors: Ratings and Reviews of 60 Public University Honors Programs. It is in the final proofing stage now. The goal is to publish in late September. Each edition includes a somewhat different group of honors colleges and programs, so there will be changes, even among the 40 or so programs that are reviewed in each edition.

As I have noted in previous updates, the book will take an almost microscopic view of 50 of these programs and also provide more general summary reviews of 10 additional programs. I can say now that there will be a few more programs that will receive the highest overall rating of five “mortarboards” than there were in 2014. (The final list of programs we are rating and reviewing for 2016 is below.)

The rating system makes it possible for any honors college or program, whether a part of a public “elite” or not, to earn the highest rating. Similarly, the ratings allow all types of honors programs to earn the highest rating. Those receiving five mortarboards will include core-type programs with fewer than 1,000 students and large honors programs with thousands of students. And absent any intentional preference for geographical diversity, the list does in fact include programs from north, south, east, and west.

By microscopic, I mean that the rating categories have increased from 9 to 14, and so has the depth of statistical analysis. The categories are, first, the overall honors rating; curriculum requirements; the number of honors classes offered; the number of honors classes in “key” disciplines; the extent of honors participation by all members in good standing; honors-only class sizes; overall class size averages, including mixed and contract sections; honors grad rates, adjusted for admissions test scores; ratio of students to honors staff; type of priority registration; honors residence halls, amenities; honors residence halls, availability; and the record of achieving prestigious scholarships (Rhodes, Marshall, Goldwater, etc.).

Sometimes readers (and critics) ask: Why so few programs? Doesn’t U.S. News report on hundreds of colleges?

The answer is: Honors colleges and programs are complicated. Each one of the 50 rated reviews in the new edition with by 2,500-3,000 words in length, or 7-8 pages. That’s almost 400 pages, not including introductory sections. The rest of the answer is: We are not U.S. News. With myself, one assistant editor, a contract statistician, and an outsourced production firm, our ability to add programs is very limited.

The 2016 profiles are full of numbers, ratios, and averages, more than in 2014 certainly–and too many, I believe, for readers who would prefer more narrative summary and description. So, yes, it is a wonkish book, even to a greater extent than this website tends to be. But then, they are honors programs after all.

Full ratings:

Alabama Honors
Arizona Honors
Arizona State Honors
Arkansas Honors
Auburn Honors
Central Florida Honors
Clemson Honors
Colorado State Honors
Connecticut Honors
CUNY Macaulay Honors
Delaware Honors
Georgia Honors
Georgia State Honors
Houston Honors
Idaho Honors
Illinois Honors
Indiana Honors
Iowa Honors
Kansas Honors
Kentucky Honors
LSU Honors
Maryland Honors
Massachusetts Honors
Minnesota Honors
Mississippi Honors
Missouri Honors
Montana Honors
New Jersey Inst of Tech
New Mexico Honors
North Carolina Honors
Oklahoma Honors
Oklahoma State Honors
Oregon Honors
Oregon State Honors
Penn State Honors
Purdue Honors
South Carolina Honors
South Dakota Honors
Temple Honors
Tennessee Honors
Texas A&M Honors
Texas Tech Honors
UC Irvine Honors
University of Utah Honors
UT Austin Honors
Vermont Honors
Virginia Commonwealth Honors
Virginia Tech Honors
Washington Honors
Washington State Honors

Summary Reviews:

Cincinnati Honors
Florida State Honors
Michigan Honors
New Hampshire Honors
Ohio Univ Honors
Pitt Honors
Rutgers Honors
Virginia Honors
Western Michigan Honors
Wisconsin Honors

 

University of Texas Chancellor Opposes Top 10 Percent Admission Rule

As a former Navy Seal and admiral in command of all U.S. Special Operations forces, UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven spent three decades serving and leading the most elite military forces in the world. He has made it clear that he now wants the state flagship to join the best of the best among the nation’s public universities.

But after seeing the system flagship turn away thousands of the state’s elite students because they did not make the top 10 percent (actually 7 percent at UT Austin this year) in the graduating classes of the state’s most competitive high schools, the chancellor sees the automatic admission rule as a major obstacle to keeping the brightest students in Texas–and at UT Austin.

“Candidly, right now what is holding us back is the 10 percent rule,” McRaven told state higher ed leaders recently.

The motives of the Top 10 proponents are certainly worthy–to increase the enrollment of high-achieving minority students at UT Austin. But what makes the rule (sort of) work is that it is predicated on the fact that many of the state’s high schools remain almost entirely segregated. Sometimes this is because an entire region is heavily Latino (the Rio Grande Valley); but elsewhere the segregation in urban centers is based on race and income.

Many of these high schools are among the least competitive in the state. Graduating in the top 7 percent of a high school that offers no AP or honors sections and that has low mean test scores is far different from reaching the top 7 percent of a graduating class of 800 students that has 70 National Merit Scholars.

What can happen to suburban students at very competitive schools is that an unweighted high school GPA of 3.9 (high school rank top 11 percent) and an SAT score of 1440 might not make the cut at UT Austin. Three-fourths of the school’s admits are from the top 7 percent pool; the other 25 percent of admits face a pool that is as competitive as many of the nation’s most selective private colleges.

And, McRaven would say, too many of these students are going out of state, where it costs them more and where they might remain rather than return to Texas. Moreover, the chancellor believes the rule is part of the reason that UT Austin, despite having a stellar faculty, is not rated as highly as it should be among the nation’s public universities.

“Candidly, I think we need to take a hard look at some of the ways that we address higher education, particularly at our flagship program. Your flagship, your number one university in the state of Texas is ranked 52nd on the U.S. News & World Report. To me that’s unacceptable. A lot of things drive that. The 10 percent rule drives that,” he told higher ed leaders.

While he did not specify exactly how the rule contributes to lower rankings, the graduation rate metric used by U.S. News might be lower for UT Austin in part because of the relatively lower standards in many poor and mostly segregated high schools. (It is possible that the chancellor also sees the large size of UT Austin as another issue.)

If the chancellor can find a way to maintain or improve minority enrollment and do away with the Top 10 rule, he might prevail. If the U.S. Supreme Court does not scrap the university’s current holistic admissions policy for students outside the top 7 percent, he might have a better chance; otherwise, his task will be as difficult as many he faced as a military leader.

“[The Top 10 Rule] is a very very sensitive topic,” State Rep. Robert Alonzo told McRaven. “It is a topic that we have discussed at length from all different aspects, and I would hope that we have put it to rest for a while.”

McRaven was undeterred. “I am a new chancellor, so I am going to take that opportunity to re-open that look again,” he said. “Because my charge is to make us the very best, and I think there are some obstacles to doing that.”

Alonzo replied: “Well, I accept the challenge, sir.”

Stay tuned, for this could be a big battle indeed.