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
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




Forbes College Rankings 2015: Still Unfriendly to Public Universities

The 2015 Forbes America’s Best Colleges rankings are out, and there is a new wrinkle in the methodology: The magazine “ran a targeted student satisfaction survey on Facebook. Respondents were asked where they attended school and how satisfied they were with their experience on a scale from 1 to 5.” The result yielded 2.5% of the total score, and was incorporated into the 25% subtotal in the “Student Satisfaction” metric.

We do not know exactly what “a targeted student satisfaction survey” is, but throwing something new into a ranking system helps to sustain interest. The survey didn’t help public universities overall. The average ranking of the public universities listed in the top 100 dropped more than 14 places in just two years. Only William & Mary rose during that time. Incredibly (literally), the Penn State ranking has fallen 59 places in two years; Maryland and Washington 20 and 21 places respectively. What could have happened in only two years to create such results?

For 2014, Forbes or, rather, the very conservative Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), which does the work for the magazine, increased the weight of the student debt factor from 17.5% to 25%.  At the same time, the weight for “Academic Success” went down modestly, from 11.25% to 10%.  Both of these probably hurt public universities: the debt, because state support still has not caught up with costs; the academic success because CCAP counts National Science Foundation Fellowships and Fulbright awards, many of which are won by students and faculty at public research universities.

(We have been and remain critical of the Forbes rankings, but at least they focus on outputs, however murky or dubious those may be. The do not use selectivity–an increasingly problematic U.S. News metric.)

In 2013, we wrote that the Forbes America’s Best Colleges rankings had suddenly become more friendly to public universities after several years of relegating many of them to the high three figures in the numerical rankings.  In that year, 19 public universities (not counting the military academies) made it into the top 100; in 2014, that number dropped to only 14. This year 13 were among the top 100.

Although UC Berkeley, UVA, Michigan, and North Carolina all improved slightly in 2015, they are still, on average, more than 10 places below where they were only two years ago.

It is not unusual for anyone who ranks or evaluates colleges to make changes in their ranking methodologies.  We have done the same for our curret edition of the Review, although we did not use numerical rankings this time around.

At least the bizarre rankings that marked the Forbes list for the first few years have mostly gone away.  No longer do we see, for example, a university ranked 320th one year and rise to 168th the next.  And it is good to keep in mind that the Forbes rankings lump all private and public universities and liberal arts colleges into one huge group; so a Forbes ranking of, say, 65 or 70 for a public university is a much stronger ranking than a U.S. News “national university ranking” in the same range.

Still, it is difficult to understand how some of the public universities could have dropped so far in just two or three years. The graduation rate value of 7.5% of the total, not adjusted for schools (e.g., Georgia Tech) with high numbers of engineering students, is punishing for some schools. Georgia Tech now has fallen 10 places since 2013, all the way down to 93.

Below are the Forbes rankings of public universities that were in the top 100 in 2013. The first parenthesis is the 2013 ranking, the second is the 2014 ranking, and the third is the 2015 ranking.

U.S. Military Academy— (7) (9) (11)

UC Berkeley— (22) (37) (35)

U.S. Naval Academy (28) (27) (27)

Virginia (29) (40) (36)

Michigan (30) (45) (41)

U.S. Air Force Academy (31) (34) (38)

UCLA (34) (44) (45)

UNC Chapel Hill (38) (50) (49)

William & Mary (44) (41) (39)

Illinois (53) (68) (68)

Washington (55) (73) (76)

UT Austin (66) (76) (82)

Wisconsin  (68) (70) (69)

Maryland  (73) (82) (93)

Florida (74) (87) (83)

Georgia Tech (83) (90) (93)

Georgia (90) (94) (102)

Penn State (93) (166) (152)

UC Santa Barbara (96) (116) (103)

Indiana (97) (107) (112)

UC Davis (99) (113) (121)