Some New Honors College “Rankings” Have Appeared Elsewhere; Here’s Our Take

By John Willingham, Editor

Recently, Google searches are listing two new sites that claim to rank public university honors programs and honors colleges. Their “rankings” in most instances bear a close resemblance to the ratings we have produced since 2012. Aside from the likelihood of  extensive (unattributed) borrowing from our copyrighted work, the fact is that most of the data necessary to rank or rate these programs is not publicly available. We are the only site or organization in the country that does have access, gained only after many years of dialogue and collaboration with honors deans and directors across the nation. One wonders how these new rankings were developed. Or were they mostly “borrowed”?

Our collaborative process yields enormous amounts of data. For example, to calculate honors class sizes, we have to analyze about 10,000 honors classes for each addition. Much of the data required for this analysis is not available on honors sites or even on university-wide course schedules.

And still we do not “rank” programs. Typically, I have an opinion, based on data, about the best five to ten programs in the nation among those rated in a given edition. The data may show that one is “better” (a higher point total) than all the rest. And then I think about how I have weighted each of the 13 rating categories. If I were to change any of them, the ratings would change. All is driven by the methodology, and nobody’s methodology is perfect. It is a matter of judgment in the final analysis. It is not scientific in the truest sense, even with all the data involved. I can give you an exact figure for honors class sizes at Honors College A, but the rating proportion I assign to that exact figure is subjective.

If it’s not science, don’t present it as science. Ordinal rankings present themselves as science. But just imagine how the U.S. News rankings would change if all the institutional wealth metrics were removed or if selectivity did not count.

Thanks to the cooperation of honors deans and directors across the nation, we now receive for each rated profile 10-20 pages of documents, much of it hard data on class sections and course offerings. No one else obtains this level of unique data. Even by going online and reading every entry in the university’s course schedule one will not find the volume and specificity of data that we need for honors course analyses. That’s because honors programs offer mixed and contract sections that are not transparent in online course listings.

This brings us to the new rankings.

One lists “The 9 Best Honors Colleges and Programs” in the nation. Here is the methodology:

“To put together our list, we evaluated the national honors college rankings from the past two years. We also evaluated honors colleges based on admissions requirements, curricular and extracurricular program offerings, emphasis on fostering an honors student community, financial aid opportunities, and unique or innovative approaches to the honors educational experience.” [Emphasis added.]

First, how does someone quantify “an emphasis on fostering an honors student community” or “innovative approaches to the honors educational experience”?

Second, I do not know of any “national honors college rankings,” although we announce the top 5-10 programs, in one alphabetical group, every other year. These programs are “top” only within the data set of rated programs for a given edition. No program is declared number one, or number three, or number ten for that data set, much less for the entire universe of honors programs. They are a instead placed in a group. Our refusal to anoint any program with a specific ranking number has, in fact, caused one prominent program to stop cooperating with us.

The “9 Best” site does not hesitate to do so: “Ranked #1 among honors colleges in the United States, Barrett College has a presence on ASU’s four campuses in Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, and Glendale, Arizona.” Although Barrett, under its longstanding Dean, Mark Jacobs, achieves excellent results year in and year out, I do not know of any recent ranking that specifically lists Barrett or any other honors program or college as number 1. It is true that Barrett has been in the highest (five mortarboard) group in all of our editions. But so has the South Carolina Honors College, Penn State’s Schreyer Honors College, the Plan II Honors Program at UT Austin, the University Honors Program at Kansas, and, since 2016, the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY. These are very different programs, ranging from extremely large (Barrett) to very small (UT Plan II.)

Other strong programs are at Clemson, Delaware, Georgia, Houston, and Ole Miss. Data from Maryland, Michigan, and North Carolina is no longer available, but in one or more previous editions, all received excellent ratings.

The “9 Best” site above also lists Penn State Schreyer, Clemson, and Rutgers Honors College among the best honors colleges, and adds UT Plan II, Kansas UHP, and the Echols Scholar program at UVA. Then in a “best bang for the buck” category, it lists CUNY Macaulay and the Alabama Honors College. (We have not included Echols after the 2014 edition because the new methodology in place since 2016 requires much more class data. Echols students can take almost any class at UVA, and it’s not possible to determine which ones those are at any given time.)

Another site lists the top 50 honors programs and colleges–a list which bears an uncanny resemblance to programs we have rated over the years. The list includes several programs that were not prominently mentioned until they appeared in one of our books: New Jersey Institute of Technology, Temple, Colorado State, and CUNY Macaulay, among them.

Here is the methodology behind this list:

“Below, we have compiled a list of the nation’s top honors colleges/programs. The selection was based on the following indicators of program quality.

  • The selectivity of the college/university (overall)
  • The selectivity of the honors program
  • Average honors class size
  • Number of honors classes
  • Availability of honors housing
  • Whether priority registration is offered to honors students

“Schools marked with an asterisk (*) rated especially high on several indicators and were ranked among the top 20 honors programs according to our methodology.”

All of the above information is in our publications. Further, “availability” of honors housing can be calculated only if one knows both the number of honors “beds” and the number of eligible honors students. One can know the true number of honors classes only if there is access to full spreadsheets, not just online listings, especially those limited to the honors homepage. And the true average class size likewise relies on extremely detailed data not available from online sources. Finally, some of the test scores listed on the site are incorrect and misleading.

Yes, I realize that U.S. News has several competitors in ranking colleges and universities. And, often, many of these rankings roughly correspond, especially at the most elite brand level. But…these competing ranking organizations all gather their own data, even while applying different methodologies, refrain from unseemly borrowing.

Here Are Honors Programs to Be Featured in 2020 Edition of Inside Honors

The 2020 edition of Inside Honors was to have included in-depth ratings of 45 programs and somewhat shorter reviews of an additional five programs. The COVID-19 issues facing universities will delay the next edition and very likely reduce the original number of programs that committed to participate. A relatively short edition will appear, however, probably in September. We anticipate that most of the top-rated programs in previous editions will likewise be rated in 2020.

The original 45 programs that were to receive full ratings and 3,000-word profiles are below:

Appalachian State
Arizona State
Ball State
Central Florida (UCF)
College of Charleston
Colorado State
CUNY Macaulay
Georgia State
Nevada Reno
New Jersey Inst of Tech
New Mexico
UNC Charlotte
UNC Wilmington
Oklahoma State
Penn State
South Carolina
South Dakota State
South Florida (USF)
UT Chattanooga
Texas Tech
UT Austin
Virginia Commonwealth
Virginia Tech
Washington State
West Virginia

Below are the five programs that will receive unrated reviews:

Florida Atlantic
Florida International
Texas A&M
UC Irvine


U.S. News 2020: Dept Rank vs Academic Rep vs Overall Rank Plus Social Mobility

The post is by editor John Willingham.

Yes, the title of this post is a mouthful. For years now, I have kept an updated list of the departmental rankings that U.S. News publishes so that I can add them to the biannual profiles I do of honors programs. When the 2020 rankings came out, I wanted to see whether there was any clear relationship between the departmental scores and the academic reputation scores. Then I compared the latest reputation scores with those published in 2015 to see how much had changed. Finally, the table below also includes changes in university rankings and the most recent rankings for social mobility.

(I would welcome comments on this post. Please email

It appears that the social mobility metric has had some impact, especially if the ranking is very strong, as in the case of many UC campuses and Florida institutions. There is no clear relationship between departmental scores and academic reputation scores. Departmental rankings do have a modest relationship to the overall U.S. News rankings, but there are many inconsistencies. Academic reputation scores do seem to show some “grade inflation” since 2015; often this is the case even when the U.S News ranking has dropped significantly.

The table below includes data for 100 public and private universities.

The cumulative rankings that I do for 15 academic disciplines requires some explanation. U.S. News only ranks graduate programs for most departments. Here are the disciplines for which I have cumulative departmental rankings, using the most recent data (2018): biological sciences; business (undergrad); chemistry, computer science; earth sciences; economics; education; engineering (undergrad);English; history; mathematics; physics; political science; psychology; and sociology.

Not every university has a ranked department in each of the 15 disciplines. I averaged departmental rankings for every university that had at least six ranked departments. For universities with, say, fewer than 12 ranked departments, the total ranking will be artificially high because only the best departments are ranked and I cannot include unranked departents. Most universities have 12-15 departments that are ranked, and so the overall average will be more useful for them. And some of the universities with a small number of ranked departments are specialized, such as Georgia Tech and Caltech. Clearly, even ranking only six or seven departments for those schools and getting a strong result is not misleading.

Universities with fewer than 10 departmental rankings: Colorado School of Mines; Georgia Tech; Miami Ohio; American; Brigham Young; Caltech; Dartmouth; Drexel; Fordham; Georgetown; and RPI.

It should be said that universities with relatively low departmental rankings can legitimately receive high rankings because of other meaningful factors, such as grad and retention rates and class size. Some excellent universities do not have an especially strong research focus or a lot of graduate programs. Dartmouth is one prominent example.

The universities below appear in rank order of their 2020 academic reputation, according to U.S. News.

UNIVERSITYAvg Dept RankDept RankRep ScoreRep RankRep ScoreRep DifUS NewsRank Dif2020 Rank  
NAME15 Disciplines 2018Ordinal2020202020152020 v 2015Rank 20202015-2020Soc Mobility
UC Berkeley3.224.764.7022-270
Johns Hopkins21.93194.764.50.2102241
Carnegie Mellon27.73294.3184.20.1250303
Georgia Tech33.7374.3184.20.1297224
Notre Dame45.43474.2223.90.315-1322
North Carolina23.79214.1264.10291165
UW Madison12.93124.1264.10461297
UT Austin14.47144.12640.1485134
Washington 22.2203.9324-162-14176
UC Davis28.14303.9323.80.139-19
UC San Diego25.93243.9323.80.137021
William & Mary69363.8373.70.140-7354
Ohio St26.4253.8373.70.1540254
UC Irvine32.53353.8373.60.23663
Penn State27.27263.7433.60.157-9348
Boston College50.27543.7433.60.137-6270
Texas A&M41.6423.7433.60.170-296
Case Western72.91773.7433.50.240-2214
Boston Univ48.67523.7433.50.2402270
Colorado 33.2363.7433.50.2104-16359
Virginia Tech52.31603.7433.40.374-3322
Wake Forest98.75933.6533.50.1270360
UC Santa Barbara35.21383.6533.50.13469
Georgia 63653.6533.40.25013159
George Washington76.92833.5603.5070-19322
Michigan St42.13433.5603.50841241
Col School of Mines74.83793.5603.30.2844303
U of Miami85.69873.5603.20.357-9270
UMass Amherst48.57513.4683.20.26412186
Arizona St45.67483.4683.20.211712147
Stony Brook46.46503.3763.20.191-324
Iowa St50.27543.3763.20.1121-15270
Florida St68.8733.37630.3573880
Miami Oh94.11913.2833.10.191-15369
NC State67.09703.2833.10.18411224
Brigham Young80.22843.28330.277-15291
UC Riverside64.33693.1923.1091221
UC Santa Cruz59.71623.19230.18412
Washington St84.5863.19230.1166-28176
George Mason93.67903.19230.1153-25125
MEAN SCORES/RANKS49.9083503.77247.713.6610.10256.96-2.51229.38



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

Editor’s Note: We hope to update this post before the end of September 2019. The list appears after the introductory section. The list was 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

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.


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


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


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
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


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


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
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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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
UC Berkeley
UT Austin
NC State
William and Mary
UW Madison
Florida State
New College Florida
Georgia Tech
Truman State
UC San Diego
New Mexico Inst Mining and Tech
UC Santa Barbara
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