Rankings of universities in the United States

October 6, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs

College and university rankings in the
United States are rankings of US colleges and universities ordered by
various combinations of various contributing factors which vary greatly
depending on the organization performing the ranking. Rankings have most often
been conducted by magazines, newspapers, websites, or academics. In addition to
ranking entire institutions, organizations perform rankings of
specific programs, departments, and schools. Various rankings consider
combinations of measures of wealth, research excellence and/or influence,
selectivity, student options, eventual success, demographics, and other
criteria. There is much debate about rankings’ interpretation, accuracy,
usefulness, and appropriateness. The expanding diversity in rating
methodologies and accompanying criticisms of each indicate the lack of
consensus in the field. Rankings
=Acceptance rate=Selectivity—the percentage of applicants
admitted—reflects both desirability, and competitiveness, although
competitiveness also depends on the strength of fellow applicants instead of
the number of people to be accepted alone. For the third year in a row,
Stanford has been the most selective undergraduate institution.
=Admissions yield=Yield—the percentage of admitted
students who accept the offer and attend—reflects the desirability of the
school among those admitted to the school. Yield thus may reflect the
academic prestige or reputation of the school, and/or other characteristics of
the school that admitted students view as positive or attractive attributes.
The following table lists some of the universities with the highest yields in
the nation, for students entering in the fall of 2015.
=Business Insider=Business Insider asks professionals
which college they believe best prepares its students for success in life. The
top three colleges in the 2014 survey were Stanford, MIT, and Caltech.
=Council for Aid to Education=The Council for Aid to Education
publishes a list of the top universities in terms of annual fundraising.
Fundraising ability reflects, among other things, alumni and outside donor’s
views of the quality of a university, as well as the ability of that university
to expend funds on top faculty and facilities. Most recent rankings put
Stanford at the top, ahead of Harvard, USC, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins.
=The Daily Beast’s Guide to the Best Colleges=
The Daily Beast’s college rankings take into account nine factors, with
academics, future earnings, and affordability weighted most heavily. The
other criteria include graduation rates, diversity, athletics, nightlife,
activities, and campus quality. Data comes from The National Center for
Education Statistics, as well as private organizations like PayScale, for salary
data, and Niche, for student opinions. The Daily Beast’s college rankings
report the top 250 scoring schools, with Stanford University at the top, followed
by Harvard University, Yale University, MIT, and Columbia University.
=Faculty Scholarly Productivity rankings=
The Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index by Academic Analytics ranks 354
institutions based on faculty publications, citations, research grants
and awards.=Forbes college rankings=
In 2008, Forbes.com began publishing an annual list, prepared by the Center for
College Affordability and Productivity of “America’s Best Colleges”. Student
satisfaction constitutes 75% of the score. Post-graduate success constitutes
32.5% of the score. Student debt loads constitute 25% of the score. The
graduation rate constitutes 7.5% of the score. Academic success constitutes 10%
of the score. Public reputation is not considered, which causes some colleges
to score lower than in other lists. A three-year moving average is used to
smooth out the scoring. The 2015 ranking puts Pomona College at the top, followed
by Williams, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and Swarthmore.
=Money’s “Best Colleges”=Money’s college rankings take into
account 21 factors that it categorizes as measures of educational quality,
affordability, and alumni earnings. The rankings considered 1500 four-year
colleges and reported the top ranking 736. In 2015, according to Money, the
top five colleges are Stanford, Babson, MIT, Princeton, and CalTech.
=Niche rankings=Niche provides rankings and reviews of
colleges in the U.S. Their Best Colleges ranking focuses on academics, diversity,
affordability, and student satisfaction. Their most recent ranking places
Stanford at the top, followed by MIT, Harvard, Yale, and Rice.
=The Princeton Review Dream Colleges=The Princeton Review annually asks
students and parents what their dream college is, if cost and ability to get
in were not factors. Over 12,000 students and parents responded in 2015.
The top dream school for students is Stanford, for the third year in a row.
The top dream school for parents is also Stanford, for the fourth year in a row.
Stanford won out over Harvard and NYU among students, and led Harvard and
Princeton among parents.=Revealed Preference Rankings=
Avery et al. pioneered the use of choice modelling to rank colleges. Their
methodology used a statistical analysis of the decisions of 3,240 students who
applied to college in 1999. MyChances.net adopted a similar approach
starting in 2009, stating that its method is based on this approach. The
study analysed students admitted to multiple colleges. The college they
attended became the winner, and the others became the losers. An Elo rating
system was used to assign points based on each win or loss, and the colleges
were ranked based on their Elo points. A useful consequence of the use of Elo
points is that they can be used to estimate the frequency with which
students, upon being admitted to two schools, will choose one over the other.
Most recent preference ranking by Parchment placed Stanford at the top,
followed by MIT, Harvard, and Yale.=Social Mobility Index rankings=
The SMI rankings are a collaborative publication from CollegeNet and
PayScale. The rankings aim to provide a measure of the extent to which colleges
provide upward economic mobility to those that attend. The rankings were
created in response to the finding in Science magazine which showed that among
developed nations, the United States now provides the least economic opportunity
and mobility for its citizens. The rankings were also created to combat the
rising costs of tuition, much of which is attributed to the efforts of some
colleges to increase their own fame and wealth in ways that increase their rank
in media periodicals that put an emphasis on such measures. In 2014,
according to the SMI, the top five colleges are Montana Tech, Rowan
University, Florida A&M, Cal Poly Pomona, and Cal State Northridge.
=The Top American Research Universities The Center for Measuring University
Performance has ranked American research universities in the Top American
Research Universities since 2000. The methodology is based on data such as
research publications, citations, recognitions and funding, as well as
undergraduate quality such as SAT scores. The information used can be
found in publicly accessible materials, reducing possibilities for manipulation.
The methodology is generally consistent from year to year and changes are
explained in the publication along with references from other studies.
=TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Guide=TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Guide is
an American-college guide based on what it calls “Internet brand equity” based
on data collected from the Internet and global media sources. It ranks the Top
300 United States colleges and universities. The guide includes
specialty and for profit schools including Art, Business, Design, Music,
and Online Education. The TrendTopper MediaBuzz College Rankings are produced
twice a year by the Global Language Monitor of Austin, Texas.
Time Magazine described internet brand equity as “a measure of who’s talking
about you online, based on Internet data, social media, blogs and the top
75,000 print and electronic media outlets.
GLM ranks the schools “according to their online presence — or internet
brand equity … By focusing on online presence, the Monitor hopes to avoid the
biases that characterize other rankings, which commonly rely on the opinions of
university officials and college counselors rather than that of the
greater public.” GLM believes the rankings provide an up-to-date
perspective on which schools have the most popular brand. The resulting
rankings gauge the relative value of the various institutions and how they change
over time.=University Entrepreneur Report=
The University Entrepreneur Report lists the top six American universities in
terms of venture capital investments in businesses started by a university’s
alumni. According to a CB Insights study of deals from 2007-2011, Stanford alumni
secured 203 venture capital or angel investments, totaling $4.1 billion, more
than any other university studied. Harvard was second with 112 deals,
totaling $3.8 billion. Excluding the Facebook deal, Harvard alumni secured
$1.8 billion, less than half of Stanford’s total. UC Berkeley, NYU,
UPenn and MIT each brought in over $1.0 billion.
=USA Today and CollegeFactual=In 2014, USA Today newspaper started to
co-market a ranking of schools with the firm CollegeFactual under the USA Today
College brand. =U.S. News & World Report College and
University rankings=The magazine U.S. News & World Report’s
rankings are based upon information they collect from educational institutions
via an annual survey and school websites. It also considers opinion
surveys of university faculty and administrators outside the school. Their
college rankings were first published in 1983 and have been published in all
years thereafter, except 1984. The US News listings have gained such
influence that some Universities have made it a specific goal to reach a
particular level in the US News rankings. Belmont University president
Bob Fisher stated in 2010, “Rising to the Top 5 in U.S. News represents a key
element of Belmont’s Vision 2015 plan.” Clemson University made it a public goal
to rise to the Top 20 in the US News rankings, and made specific changes,
including reducing class size and altering the presentation of teacher
salaries, so as to perform better in the statistical analysis by US News. At
least one university, Arizona State, has actually tied the university president’s
pay to an increase in the school’s placement in the US News rankings.
U.S. News precise methodology has changed many times, and the data are not
all available to the public. The actual presentation of rankings has changed as
well. For many years, the magazine divided each category of post-secondary
institutions into quartiles, with the schools in the highest quartile ranked
from 1 to about 50. All schools in the lower three quartile were merely
identified as being in the “Second Tier”, “Third Tier”, and “Fourth Tier”.
However, the system was dramatically changed starting with the 2011 rankings
and now all the schools ranked in the top three quartiles are “First Tier”
Universities, and the bottom quartile—the schools in the bottom
25%—are now labeled “Second Tier”. The following are elements in the US
News rankings. Peer assessment: a survey of the
institution’s reputation among presidents, provosts, and admissions
deans of other institutions Guidance Counselor assessment: a survey
of the institution’s reputation among approximately 1,800 high school guidance
counselors Retention: six-year graduation rate and
first-year student retention rate Faculty resources: average class size,
faculty salary, faculty degree level, student-faculty ratio, and proportion of
full-time faculty Student selectivity: standardized test
scores of admitted students, proportion of admitted students in upper
percentiles of their high school class, and proportion of applicants accepted
Financial resources: per-student spending
Graduation rate performance: difference between expected and actual graduation
rate Alumni giving rate
U.S. News determined the relative weights of these factors and changed
them over time. The National Opinion Research Center reviewed the methodology
and stated that the weights “lack any defensible empirical or theoretical
basis”. The first four of the listed factors account for the great majority
of the U.S. News ranking, and the “reputational measure” is especially
important to the final ranking. A New York Times article reported that,
given the U.S. News weighting methodology, “it’s easy to guess who’s
going to end up on top: the Big Three, Harvard, Yale and Princeton round out
the first three essentially every year. When asked how he knew his system was
sound, Mel Elfin, the rankings’ founder, often answered that he knew it because
those three schools always landed on top. When a new lead statistician, Amy
Graham, changed the formula in 1999 to one she considered more statistically
valid, the California Institute of Technology jumped to first place. Ms.
Graham soon left, and a modified system pushed Princeton back to No. 1 the next
year.” A 2010 study by the University of
Michigan found that university rankings in the United States significantly
affect institutions’ applications and admissions. The research analyzed the
effects of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, showing a lasting effect on
college applications and admissions by students in the top 10% of their class.
In addition, they found that rankings influence survey assessments of
reputation by college presidents at peer institutions, such that rankings and
reputation are becoming much more similar over time.
A 2014 study published in Research in Higher Education removed the mystique of
the U.S. News ranking process by producing a ranking model that
faithfully recreated U.S. News outcomes and quantified the inherent “noise” in
the rankings for all nationally ranked universities. The model developed
provided detailed insight into the U.S. News ranking process. It allowed the
impact of changes to U.S. News subfactors to be studied when variation
between universities and within subfactors was present. Numerous
simulations were run using this model to understand the amount of change required
for a university to improve its rank or move into the top 20. Results show that
for a university ranked in the mid-30s it would take a significant amount of
additional resources, directed in a very focused way, to become a top-ranked
national university, and that rank changes of up to +/- 4 points should be
considered “noise”. US News and World Report puts the
colleges in four separate categories based on whether they offer master’s
degrees, doctoral degrees, or only bachelor’s degrees, and the extent to
which these respective degree types are offered. The following are samples of
their rankings for 2014. In their Regional Colleges category their top
colleges are: US Coast Guard Academy, Ashbury University, Taylor University,
and Carroll College. In their Regional Universities category their top colleges
are: Villanova University, Elon, Creighton, and Trinity University.
Their top national universities are: Their top engineering schools are:
Their top liberal arts colleges are:=Washington Monthly national
universities rankings=The Washington Monthly’s “National
Universities Rankings”, most recently published in 2013, began as a research
report in 2005, with rankings appearing in the September 2006 issue. It offers
American university and college rankings based upon “contribution to the public
good in three broad categories: Social Mobility, Research, and Service.
Washington Monthly puts the colleges in four separate categories based on
whether they offer master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, or only bachelor’s
degrees, and the extent to which these respective degree types are offered. The
following are samples of their rankings for 2014. In their Baccalaureate College
category their top five are: Elizabeth City State University, Tuskegee
University, Bethel College-North Newton, Wheeling Jesuit University, and Messiah
College. In their Liberal Arts Colleges category their top five are: Bryn Mawr,
Carleton College, Berea College, Swarthmore College, and Harvey Mudd. In
their Master’s Universities category their top five are: Creighton, Truman
State, Valparaiso, Trinity University, and SUNY Geneseo. In their National
Universities category their top five are: UC San Diego, UC Riverside, UC
Berkeley, Texas A&M, and UCLA.=”What will they Learn?” Report –
American Council of Trustees and Alumni In 2009, the American Council of
Trustees and Alumni began grading colleges and universities based on the
strength of their general education requirements. In ACTA’s annual What Will
They Learn? report, colleges and universities are assigned a letter grade
from “A” to “F” based on how many of seven subjects are required of students.
The seven subjects are composition, mathematics, foreign language, science,
economics, literature and American government or history. The 2011-2012
edition of What Will They Learn? graded 1,007 institutions. In the 2011-2012
edition, 19 schools received an “A” grade for requiring at least six of the
subjects the study evaluated. ACTA’s rating system has been endorsed by Mel
Elfin, founding editor of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings. New York Times
higher education blogger Stanley Fish, while agreeing that universities ought
to have a strong core curriculum, disagreed with some of the subjects ACTA
includes in the core.=Other=
Other rankings include the Fiske Guide to Colleges and College Prowler, now
called Niche. Many specialized rankings are available in guidebooks, considering
individual student interests, fields of study, geographical location, financial
aid and affordability. In addition to best overall colleges ranking shown
above, Niche also publishes dozens of specialized rankings such as Best
Academics, Best Campus Food, Most Conservative Colleges, and Best
Technology. Among the rankings dealing with
individual fields of study is the Philosophical Gourmet Report or “Leiter
Report”, a ranking of philosophy departments. This report has attracted
criticism from different viewpoints. Notably, practitioners of continental
philosophy, who perceive the Leiter report as unfair to their field, have
compiled alternative rankings. The Gourman Report, last published in
1996, ranked the quality of undergraduate majors and graduate
programs. The Higher Education Rankings, developed
and managed by the New York City consulting company IV Research, is a
commercial product that provides both general rankings as well as personalized
rankings based on a complicated assessment of 6 criteria and 30
indicators. Gallup polls ask American adults, “All
in all, what would you say is the best college or university in the United
States?” Global Language Monitor produces a
“TrendTopper MediaBuzz” ranking of the Top 300 United States colleges and
universities semi-annually. It publishes overall results for both university and
college categories. It uses the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching’s classifications to distinguish between universities and
liberal arts colleges. The rankings list 125 universities, 100 colleges, the
change in the rankings over time, a “Predictive Quantities Indicator” Index
number, rankings by Momentum, and rankings by State. The most recent
ranking appeared on November 1, 2009, covering 2008. The PQI index is produced
by Global Language Monitor’s proprietary PQI algorithm, which has been criticized
by some linguists for its use in a counting of the total number of English
words. The Global Language Monitor also sells the TrendTopper MediaBuzz
Reputation Management solution for higher education for which “colleges and
universities can enhance their standings among peers”. The Global Language
Monitor states that it “does not influence the Higher Education rankings
in any way”. The Princeton Review, annually publishes
a book of Best Colleges. In 2011, this was titled The Best 373 Colleges. Phi
Beta Kappa has also sought to establish chapters at the best schools, lately
numbering 280. In terms of collegiate sports programs,
the annual NACDA Directors’ Cup provides a measure of all-around collegiate
athletic team achievement. Stanford has won the Division I Directors’ cup for
the last 20 years in a row. Criticisms
American college and university ranking systems have drawn criticism from within
and outside higher education in Canada and the United States. Institutions that
have objected include Reed College, Alma College, Mount Holyoke College, St.
John’s College, Earlham College, MIT, Stanford University, University of
Western Ontario, and Queen’s University. Critics charged that U.S. News
intentionally changed its methodology every year so that the rankings change
and they can sell more magazines. A San Francisco Chronicle article argues that
“almost all of US News factors are redundant and can be boiled down to one
characteristic: the size of the college or university’s endowment.”
Some higher education experts, like Kevin Carey of Education Sector, have
argued that U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings system is merely a list
of criteria that mirrors the superficial characteristics of elite colleges and
universities. According to Carey, “[The] U.S. News ranking system is deeply
flawed. Instead of focusing on the fundamental issues of how well colleges
and universities educate their students and how well they prepare them to be
successful after college, the magazine’s rankings are almost entirely a function
of three factors: fame, wealth, and exclusivity.” He suggested more
important characteristics are how well students are learning and how likely
students are to earn a degree.=2007 movement=
On 19 June 2007, during the annual meeting of the Annapolis Group, members
discussed a letter to college presidents asking them not to participate in the
“reputation survey” section of the U.S. News survey. As a result, “a majority of
the approximately 80 presidents at the meeting said that they did not intend to
participate in the U.S. News reputational rankings in the future.”
However, the decision to fill out the reputational survey was left to each
individual college. The statement stated that its members “have agreed to
participate in the development of an alternative common format that presents
information about their colleges for students and their families to use in
the college search process.” This database was outlined and developed in
conjunction with higher education organizations including theNational
Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council of
Independent Colleges. U.S. News & World Report editor Robert
Morse issued a response on 22 June 2007, stating:
“in terms of the peer assessment survey, we at U.S. News firmly believe the
survey has significant value because it allows us to measure the “intangibles”
of a college that we can’t measure through statistical data. Plus, the
reputation of a school can help get that all-important first job and plays a key
part in which grad school someone will be able to get into. The peer survey is
by nature subjective, but the technique of asking industry leaders to rate their
competitors is a commonly accepted practice. The results from the peer
survey also can act to level the playing field between private and public
colleges.” In reference to the alternative database
discussed by the Annapolis Group, Morse argued:
“It’s important to point out that the Annapolis Group’s stated goal of
presenting college data in a common format has been tried before […] U.S.
News has been supplying this exact college information for many years
already. And it appears that NAICU will be doing it with significantly less
comparability and functionality.U.S. News first collects all these data. Then
we post the data on our website in easily accessible, comparable tables. In
other words, the Annapolis Group and the others in the NAICU initiative actually
are following the lead of U.S. News.” In 1996, according to Gerhard Casper,
then-president of Stanford University, U.S. News & World Report changed its
formula to calculated financial resources:
Knowing that universities—and, in most cases, the statistics they submit—change
little from one year to the next, I can only conclude that what are changing are
the formulas the magazine’s number massagers employ. And, indeed, there is
marked evidence of that this year. In the category “Faculty resources,” even
though few of us had significant changes in our faculty or student numbers, our
class sizes, or our finances, the rankings’ producers created a mad
scramble in rank order […data…]. Then there is “Financial resources,”
where Stanford dropped from #6 to #9, Harvard from #5 to #7. Our resources did
not fall; did other institutions’ rise so sharply? I infer that, in each case,
the formulas were simply changed, with notification to no one, not even your
readers, who are left to assume that some schools have suddenly soared,
others precipitously plummeted. See also
College admissions in the United States University and College Accountability
Network References
External links The National Academies Assessment of
Research Doctorate Programs