How the Collge Rankings Were Done

The 2018 Money Magazine college rankings have just been published. That means that parents and kids have a new, statistics-based list of college ratings that they can consult before picking colleges that are application-worthy. (We thought that the US News rankings would fill the demand for ratings, but the appetite for them is apparently great.)

The emphasis of the Money Magazine rankings appears to be to identify colleges that deliver good value. (After all. the publication behind the list is called Money Magazine.)

But we also wanted to get a better idea behind the methodology that Money Magazine used to select colleges that make its rankings. Fortunately, the publication has been transparent enough to explain how they built their list. The following information is available on the Money Magazine website; we are offering only edited highlights of it in today’s blog post.

Which Colleges Qualified for Consideration?

A total of 727 colleges and universities made the list because they met the following standards. They  . . .

  • Had at least 500 students
  • Were able to provide reliable and sufficient data to be considered
  • Were not in “financial distress”
  • Had high graduation rates in their categories, such as public, private or historically black institutions

What Factors Were Considered?

  • Quality of education, which was measured by judging factors like the percentage of students who graduated after six years and the faculty-to-student ratio
  • Student quality, which was measured by comparing scores on new students’ standardized tests and other factors
  • The percentage of Pell Grant recipients who graduated
  • Affordability, which was measured by comparing the net price of an undergraduate degree in different institutions, and the affordability for low-income students
  • Outcomes, which were measured by weighing the salaries of graduates and other factors

And Which Schools Earned Top Rankings?

After weighing all those factors – and more – Money judged that the top 10 U.S. institutions were, with the top-ranked school listed first:

  • Princeton University
  • University of California – San Diego
  • University of California – Irvine
  • University of California – Los Angeles
  • Stanford University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of California – Berkeley
  • City University of New York Baruch College
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • University of Virginia – Charlottesville

How Useful Are those College Rankings?

That is, as always, the most important question to ask when using statistics-based comparative rankings of colleges and universities. Will students really get better value, or a better education, from a college that is ranked first than they will from one that is ranked #75? The answer is, it all depends on a number of factors that may include the major field of study, the financial circumstances of the student, and many others.

The bottom line? By all means review college rankings and ratings. But in the end, it all comes down to selecting the college that is best for you.

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