Another Voice Heard in College Ratings

Higher Education

college ratingsUp to now the college rankings bible for prospective students and their parents has been U.S. News & World Report. Each year’s rankings get a lot of press and universities vie for the top spots. There are few surprises, though: the list’s Top-10 is top heavy with Ivies (six) rounded out by other big names in higher education such as Stanford, Duke, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Chicago and California Institute of Technology (I know that adds up to more than 10, but there are ties.)

Now Money magazine has come out with their own list. In its description of the methodology, Money explains that of the approximately 1,500 four-year colleges, it screened out those with a below-average graduation rates (important, especially when students and their families are contemplating borrowing money, since education loans only make economic sense if the student earns a degree). Of the remaining 665 colleges, Money used 17 factors in three categories: educational quality, affordability and alumni earnings.

The result, and this is what I think sets Money’s list apart, is that it identifies two important factors: affordability, the net cost of a degree, and alumni earnings five years after graduation. It’s a list that quantifies the value of a college education in dollars and cents. It could be a valuable tool for families who are crunching the numbers to see if the risk-reward equation for college makes sense.

There are duplications between the U.S. News & World Report and Money’s lists: M.I.T., Princeton, Stanford, Harvard and CalTech, and quite a few surprises: business-centric Babson College, located near Wellesley, MA, was rated number one.

Some of the schools that made the list, even the top 10, are not for everyone (number two is Webb Institute, which has 80 students and only one double major: naval architecture and marine engineering.) But the important point is that the list demonstrates, on the risk side, what students can expect to pay out of pocket and, on the reward side, the value of their higher education experience as measured by their salaries five years after graduation.

Take Away: A new college rankings list from Money Magazine makes figuring out the value of a degree easier.

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