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The Backlash and Appeal of Forbes Top 200 College Rankings

Another brouhaha has been stirring about the most recent college rankings from Forbes. Frankly, I hadn’t even noticed these rankings until I read about Northeastern University’s (#534) objections. Northeastern is taking issue with the inclusion of points for the graduation rate (their’s is 69.9%). According to the Forbes analysis, the 4-year graduation rate counts for 17.5% of the score. Much of the remaining points related to student satisfaction and alumni success. It seems that even if their graduation rate was 100%, they would still be ranked in the triple digits.

The biggest issue for Northeastern may be recruiting. Although countless “experts” discount the use of these rankings in the admissions process, countless rising seniors and their families rely on these reports to determine where to visit and ultimately, where to apply. Thus, there are many more students who may not even consider Northeastern because it’s so far down on the list. This may translate into increased resources for them to get their message out to prospective students and be competitive with all the other top colleges in Massachusetts that are ranked in the single and double digits:

For the second year in a row, Williams College, a small, western-Massachusetts liberal arts school, has been named as the best undergraduate institution in America. With total annual costs adding up to nearly $55,000, a Williams education is certainly not cheap, but the 2,000 undergraduates here have among the highest four-year graduation rates in the country, win loads of prestigious national awards like Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships, and are often rewarded with high-paying careers.

In second place? Princeton University, which boasts nearly nonexistent student debt rates due to one of the most generous financial aid programs in the nation. Outside of Princeton and Harvard (#6), Ivy League schools fare relatively poorly, suggesting that their reputations might be a bit overblown. Yale (#14), Brown (#21) and Dartmouth (#30) crack the top 5%, but the other Ivies – Columbia (#42), Cornell (#51) University of Pennsylvania (#52) — do not.

Because of our emphasis on financial prudence, the zero-cost military service academies rank highly. West Point, which topped the list two years ago, ranks third this time, thanks to outstanding teaching (#3) and high alumni salaries (#8), while the Air Force Academy (#10) and the Naval Academy (#17) glide easily into the top 20. Even the less prestigious academies – the Coast Guard (#97) and the Merchant Marine (#158) — score well.

Outside of the academies, the highest ranked public school is the University of Virginia (#46) followed closely by the College of William and Mary (#49) and UCLA (#55).

via America’s Top Colleges – Michael Noer – Backslash – Forbes.

I actually applaud the efforts of these recent rankings because they do take into account affordability and college graduation rates. Studies have shown that the breakdown in graduation occurs in the application process. This ranking helps in leading students toward a more informed selection of colleges.

Additional interesting posts to check out:

How to get into the University of Chicago

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