America’s Best Colleges, published by Forbes Magazine, and Best Colleges 2010 from U.S. News are out. Many of the usual suspects – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT – ranked high on both undergraduate lists.
There were surprises as well: Forbes awarded its top college spot to The United States Military Academy at West Point. From Forbes’ perspective West Point topped Princeton (#2), Caltech (#3), Williams College (#4), Harvard (#5), Wellesley College (#6), U. S. Air Force Academy (#7), Amherst College #8), Yale (#9), Stanford (#10), MIT (#11), Swarthmore (#12) and Columbia (#13).
Other surprises in the Forbes list included: Brown (#72), Penn (#83), Dartmouth (#98), Duke (#104) and University of Michigan (#200).
To understand the rankings, it’s vital to focus on the methodology. Forbes criteria included: student satisfaction with course instruction based on Rate My Professor (25%); indicators of post-graduate employment success (25%); likelihood of graduation within four years (16.7%); estimated average four year student loan debt (20%); student and faculty success in winning national and international academic and research awards (13.3%).
The U.S. News ranking formula was based on SAT scores, peer reputation, selectivity and alumni contributions. Princeton and Harvard topped the 2010 list. Williams was awarded the top spot in the list of liberal arts colleges.
U.S. News ranked Yale #3, followed by a four-way tie for #4 between MIT, Caltech, Stanford and Penn. Next in line Columbia University was ranked #8 followed by University of Chicago (#9), Duke (#10), Dartmouth College (#11) Northwestern (#12), Washington University in St. Louis (#13), Johns Hopkins (#14), Cornell (#15), Brown (#16), Emory University (#17), Rice University (#18), Vanderbilt (#19), Notre Dame (#20) and UC Berkeley (#21).
Following number one ranked Williams College on the liberals art list are: Amherst College (#2), Swarthmore College (#3), Middlebury (#4-tie), Wellesley College (#4-tie), Bowdoin (#6-tie), Pomona College (#6-tie), Carleton College (#8), Davidson College (#9) and Haverford College (#10).
Ranking of colleges continues to be a subject of debate. Many consider the practice detrimental and misleading often citing that rankings pressure colleges to focus on boosting their scores based on specific ranking criteria.
For example, to “game” the U.S. News list, a college might attain a higher yield (percentage of admitted students who enroll) by expanding its early decision program, thus appearing more selective. There are also reports of colleges “gaming the system” in the peer review evaluation, which comprised 25% of the U.S. News score.
While college rankings can be a helpful tool, it should be used in conjunction guidebooks and other information.
The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, 2010: Students on Campus Tell You What You Really Want to Know, 36th Edition
The College Finder: Choose the School That’s Right for You!
Fiske Guide to Colleges 2010, 26E
Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges – 26th Edition
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