Paul L. Caron

Friday, August 15, 2008

Forbes College Rankings

Forbes has launched a new ranking of 569 colleges and universities, based on this methodology:

  • Listing of Alumni in Who's Who in America (25%)
  • Student Evaluations of Professors from (25%)
  • Four- Year Graduation Rates (16 2/3%)
  • Enrollment-adjusted numbers of students and faculty receiving nationally competitive awards (16 2/3%)
  • Average four year accumulated student debt of those borrowing money (16 2/3%)

Here are Forbes' Top 25:

  1. Princeton
  2. California Institute of Technology
  3. Harvard
  4. Swarthmore
  5. Williams
  6. U.S. Military Academy
  7. Amherst
  8. Wellesley
  9. Yale
  10. Columbia
  11. Northwestern
  12. Wabash
  13. Centre College (KY)
  14. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  15. Bowdoin College
  16. U.S. Air Force Academy
  17. Middlebury
  18. University of Chicago
  19. Smith
  20. Pomona
  21. Wesleyan
  22. Haverford
  23. Stanford
  24. Hamilton
  25. Sarah Lawrence

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Since 50% of the ranking is worthless garbage it's hard to know if the Forbes people are stupid or if they think their readers are. Event the other 50%, while quite useful in some ways, are probably not useful as a general ranking methodology.

Posted by: matt | Aug 15, 2008 6:43:07 AM

Sure, this new Forbes list isn't perfect, but at least they're trying to measure what colleges do. US News just measures inputs (SAT scores, money spent, national reputation) but nothing about the student experience. Smaller schools that give great value (better student outcomes while students take on less debt) do well on the Forbes list and should be recognized.

Posted by: John | Aug 15, 2008 11:15:45 AM

John, how does "who's who" (a silly vanity project at best) or "rate my professor" (a deeply dubious undertaking that can easily be gamed -I say that despite having pretty good rankings on it-) fit in with "what colleges do"? Maybe schools should get extra points for having a lot of "hot" professors on "rate my professor"? I'll stick my assessment. Over half of the score is garbage and the rest, while often useful, is too situation specific to be of general ranking use. Given that, these rankings are useless.

Posted by: matt | Aug 15, 2008 12:40:26 PM

matt wrote: "Maybe schools should get extra points for having a lot of "hot" professors on "rate my professor"?"


Posted by: Not John | Aug 15, 2008 5:55:24 PM

Wow. Forbes should be embarrassed to publish such a list. Any decent editors would have killed this silly little project before it ever saw the light of day. WHO's WHO?!? These are absolutely (NOT) the organizations that I'd want to evaluate academics. How about nobel prize winners? Faculty to student ratio? Bad survey design will yield stupid results every time. Shame on Forbes for not knowing better.

Here's an idea. Maybe the most selective students actually rate their professors on a tougher scale because they set a higher bar. Let's look at some real criteria... or just save yourselves some time and buy US News instead.

Posted by: bobbyd | Aug 16, 2008 6:51:23 AM

These rankings make the U.S. News and Washington Monthly tables look great by comparison. Stanford ranked number 23 overall? Ratemyprofessor ratings as a category? Are you kidding me?

If we are going to continue this lunacy of ranking colleges let us at least concentrate on valid outputs, instead of combinations of inputs and dubious "distinction" categories. The Washington Monthly ranking methodology has many flaws but it does place value on meaningful things like the number of graduates going on to earn doctoral degrees and research funding grant dollars won. If you combined the most legitimate measures used by U.S News and Washington Monthly, you would probably get a national university top ten of:

Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Princeton, MIT, Cornell, Penn, Stanford, UC-Berkeley, Cal -Tech, not necessarily in that order.

Your top liberal arts colleges would likely be:

Williams, Wesleyan, Wellesley, Swarthmore, Amherst, Bowdoin, Smith, Bryn Mahr, Vassar, Carleton.

Posted by: Henry | Aug 17, 2008 5:23:54 PM

I agree with one of the comments here, "Forbes should be embarrassed to publish such a list. Any decent editors would have killed this silly little project before it ever saw the light of day."

Amherst #7 and Stanford #23?? Wellesley #8 and MIT #14??????

Surely this is a hoax perpetrated by some folks with very sick minds.

Posted by: Richard | Aug 23, 2008 12:15:46 PM