Paul L. Caron

Monday, September 13, 2010

WSJ College Rankings Based on Survey of Employers

Wall Street Journal, Penn State Tops Recruiter Rankings:

State universities have become the favorite of companies recruiting new hires because their big student populations and focus on teaching practical skills gives the companies more bang for their recruiting buck.

Under pressure to cut costs and streamline their hiring efforts, recruiting managers find it's more efficient to focus on fewer large schools and forge deeper relationships with them, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of top corporate recruiters whose companies last year hired 43,000 new graduates. [Methodology]  Big state schools Pennsylvania State University, Texas A&M University and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were the top three picks among recruiters surveyed.

Recruiters say graduates of top public universities are often among the most prepared and well-rounded academically, and companies have found they fit well into their corporate cultures and over time have the best track record in their firms.

Employers also like schools where they can form partnerships that allow them to work with professors and their students, giving them an inside track when it comes time to make offers for internships and jobs.

Here are the WSJ's Top 25 (and the schools' 2011 U.S. News ranking):

  1. Penn State (#47 in U.S. News)
  2. Texas A&M (#63)
  3. Illinois (#47)
  4. Purdue (#56)
  5. Arizona State (#143)
  6. Michigan (#29)
  7. Georgia Tech (#35)
  8. Maryland (#56)
  9. Florida (#53)
  10. Carnegie Mellon (#23)
  11. BYU (#75)
  12. Ohio State (#56)
  13. Virginia Tech (#69)
  14. Cornell (#15)
  15. UC-Berkeley (#22)
  16. Wisconsin (#45)
  17. UCLA (#25)
  18. Texas Tech (#159)
  19. North Carolina State (#111)
  20. [Tie 19]  Virginia (#25)
  21. Rutgers (#64)
  22. Notre Dame (#19)
  23. MIT (#7)
  24. USC (#23)
  25. North Carolina (#30)
  26. [Tie 25]  Washington State (#111)

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Go Bucks

Posted by: Me | Sep 26, 2010 9:32:14 PM

Finally a ranking based on substance, not hype!

Posted by: Vanc | Sep 16, 2010 5:28:18 PM

Go Big Red!! Cornell is an Ivy, and ranks almost the same (14/15) on both lists. There is something to be said for both practical education and quality networks.

Posted by: Big Red Alum | Sep 15, 2010 4:25:27 PM

Bob Sykes-On the contrary, my very bright daughter chose Penn State over UChicago and Johns Hopkins this past year. Why? $220K vs $0 plus we were both very impressed with the variety and quality of science offerings. She is likely to go to graduate or medical school and the $120K debt she would have from private undergraduate school would foreclose her options. I am a professor myself but so far I've been impressed with Penn State's (main campus) professionalism and concern for students. I was also impressed with the large number of bright-looking, hard-working ambitious young men. She could do worse than ending up with one of those (have to be practical here!) Didn't expect to be impressed but I was; so are a lot of other families at my kids' high school.

Posted by: ellens | Sep 15, 2010 12:35:46 PM

This is nothing new, but a few things have been overlooked. A student at a big university often has to be more independent and adult to get what he wants. That makes for a good work ethic. In the late 70s my daughter was recruited from California (airfare included) on the advice of a Penn State grad because the PSU students had a work ethic and the Cal. graduates were too laid back in the surf culture.

Posted by: Nancy | Sep 14, 2010 10:33:24 AM

Hopefully they're using career college coaching to get more and more well educated students into their schools.

Posted by: BenP | Sep 14, 2010 9:28:14 AM

The complaints about methodology show merely that a lot of folks are trying to overinterpret the outcome.

If you're a prospective college student looking to start your career at a campus recruiting fest...well, this list is probably your best source of advice on where to go to college. If your goals are different, this list is rather less useful.

To argue over what is the correct methodology for measuring which is the best college in America is to concede that there is in fact a single answer to that question, which we can discern with certainty. But there is _not_ a single answer to that question for all of America, and the sooner we collectively get over the delusion that there is, the sooner we can start learning which questions lead to the best mapping between a particular school's strengths and the needs of particular groups of students.

Posted by: Matt | Sep 14, 2010 8:06:21 AM

As a graduate of a small trade school for lawyers, economists, and diplomats, Georgetown obviously does not offer the economies of scale preferred by the ranking employers (one of its two criteria).

I would guess the Ivys (sans Cornell), Stanford, U Chicago, Duke, Vanderbilt suffer from similar issues of scale for hiring engineers and computer programmers.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the geographical clumping of the list - almost all of the schools are near big tech HQ cities/states - Chicago (6), California (6), the Northeast corridor(6), Pittsburgh (2), Raleigh-Durham research triangle (2), Texas (2), Seattle (2), and Atlanta (2 if you count Florida).

Posted by: Chaz P. | Sep 14, 2010 8:01:47 AM

bob sykes:

"The absence of the Ivies and U. Chicago merely reflects the fact that these schools specialize in social networking for the children of the ruling class. Their graduates by and large do not compete for the jobs the businessmen are seeking to fill."

This is of course blogosphere hothouse nonsense.

In the past 2 years I've directly managed 15 people on various teams in my work. The following is breakdown of their undergraduate institutions and their family backgrounds (i.e. what did Dad do for a living):

11 of 15: Private Selective Colleges and Universities: Small town lawyer, accountant, small business owner, small town sheriff, apartment owner/operator, farmer, college professor, large family business (the one legitimate wealthy background in the group), general contractor, steelworker

4 of 15: Large Public Universities: Accountant, college professor, engineer, pharmicist

Not exactly any glaring differences in the family backgrounds of the two groups. Yes, Harvard has more students who come from wealthy and powerful backgrounds than does the University of Illinois. But the vast majority of students at any university, including the ivy league schools, come from middle class backgrounds because the vast majority of people are middle class.

Posted by: sd | Sep 14, 2010 7:53:37 AM

JohnRDC wrote

"The comments are at least as interesting as the article, as there is lots of pushback from the Ivy League contingent in this thread, much of it focused on "methodology." Just the kind of response one would expect from the nation's principal training ground for theoreticians."

Well, I posted one of the earlier comments about methodology, largely because the ranking methodology is bunk and therefore the list produced is of nearly zero value. I myself do not have an ivy league degree, so I don't really have a dog in this fight, except to say that if you think the market advantage of the ivy league and similar schools is "theoretical" then I want some of what you're smoking.

Its all well and good to huff and puff about the "real world," but in the real world I live in the average annual incomes, both in the year post graduation and over a lifetime, are much higher for ivy league graduates than for the graduates of the other schools on this list. And in the real world I live in, a vanishingly small number of people who are actually faced with the choice of whether to enroll themselves or their children at Harvard or Texas A&M (assuming admittance to both schools) chooses the latter.

The ranking list produced here is very similar to the WSJ's similarly counter-intuitive ranking of graduate business schools from a few years back - a list which, if I recall correctly, placed Purdue's Krannert School of Management ahead of Harvard Business School, Wharton, Kellogg, and the Stanford and Chicago Graduate Schools of Business. Now Krannert is a fine institution, but I'd wager that you could count on one hand the number of people who have turned down HBS to enroll there in the last 5 years, and you could count on one hand the number of companies who would prefer to hire a Krannert graduate to a graduate of HBS if they could get either for the same salary. The fact that recruiters at mega coprorations like to recruit at Krannert is more a reflection of the fact that they can get get lots of bodies there for positions that pay less than the typical positions snagged by HBS graduates. And that ain;t "theory" folks - that's reality.

Posted by: sd | Sep 14, 2010 7:31:15 AM

The absence of the Ivies and U. Chicago merely reflects the fact that these schools specialize in social networking for the children of the ruling class. Their graduates by and large do not compete for the jobs the businessmen are seeking to fill.

Posted by: bob sykes | Sep 14, 2010 6:49:30 AM

Well, my alma mater didn't even make the list. But then, the University of Chicago's graduates largely end up teaching at universities, it has no strong alumni network (other than on university campuses) and no intercollegiate sports to speak of. The list does make me wonder why I sweated blood for four years for an undergraduate degree there, when I could have had a LOT more fun at Virginia or UNC -- and a strong alumni network to boot.

Posted by: USDOT guy | Sep 14, 2010 6:03:01 AM

The comments are at least as interesting as the article, as there is lots of pushback from the Ivy League contingent in this thread, much of it focused on "methodology." Just the kind of response one would expect from the nation's principal training ground for theoreticians.

Posted by: JohnRDC | Sep 14, 2010 4:49:16 AM

I am pleased to see my alma mater, the University of Florida (UF '82), on this list. To append a post above, the U of F is definitely NOT in the "right-leaning" category.

The premise behind the article is confirmed by my company's recruiting efforts. Interestingly, we have been going after larger state schools for over 15 years as they produced kids more likely to have realistic aspirations and better work ethics.

Posted by: G8rRanger | Sep 14, 2010 4:25:20 AM

As in all surveys the answer depends upon the questions asked in relation to the answers sought. The answers obtained fall on a curve of unknown value and validity and of no value or validity to the individual seeking information for their specific situation. All of this leads to class judgements, differentiation and warfare.

Posted by: Delfin Beltran | Sep 14, 2010 3:26:18 AM

May I ask what is the methodology here? If it is simply aggregate numbers than obviously bigger schools will do better. By this token, Rutgers is a better university than Princeton, and Mumbai is a better city than Paris--not that I rule this out.

Posted by: mike livingston | Sep 13, 2010 7:41:05 PM

I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin many moons ago, and not much beats watching the Longhorns stomp the Texas A&M Aggies in football. Still, I am not surprised to see Texas A&M at No. 2 on this list. My impression is that Texas A&M is much more focused on students (as opposed to faculty and administrators) than is The University of Texas at Austin (even though Texas A&M leaves lots to be desired in that category). Neither of my children attended Texas A&M, but I will push hard for my grandchildren to do so. Of course, I'll still root for the Longhorns during football season.

I am surprised to see Texas Tech on the list, but I must admit that I know lots of good folks who graduated from there.

Posted by: olrtex | Sep 13, 2010 5:00:40 PM


Purely anecdotal, but one of my daughter's best friends went to MIT, and thence straight to work for DoD. She brought some of her MIT classmates to our place while on a visit. These are not Leftists. At MIT, they have an annual contest to design something [anything] that will help the military. Some of those kids won 2nd place for an improved IR flashlight. Can you imagine Harvard or Yale having a sponsored design contest to help any military other than HAMAS or the Taliban?

Posted by: Subotai Bahadur | Sep 13, 2010 4:16:20 PM

Resentful, underemployed Ivy Leaguers besiege Taxprof blog. Film at 11.

Posted by: Jim | Sep 13, 2010 3:56:00 PM

I notice that many of the schools on the list are right-leaning. There are only five that I consider to be left-leaning by reputation: UC-Berkeley, Wisconsin, Cornell (but it's really two schools in one), Maryland and UCLA. I don't know where to place MIT.

Posted by: Mayusun | Sep 13, 2010 3:06:07 PM

Since we are using junk science, I might as well go with the anecdotal evidence. When I compare Ivy League graduates with graduates from my alma mater (Texas A&M), the Ivy Leaguers can not work well with others, they are not very practical, and they cost a lot of money for what they produce. If you want diversity oriented, arrogant, incompetent graduates in womyn studies, go with Harvard every time. If you want an engineer who knows how to get things done, look up an Aggie.

Posted by: Harry | Sep 13, 2010 3:01:57 PM

Career-focused ivy grads do not work at large corporations - they work at hedge funds, investment banks and consulting firms. Sd is correct that the methodology is junk. Show me a table of average earnings 10 years out of school. My guess is that Princeton's number would double PSUs. If it was an average for the top 5% of earners from each school, I bet Princeton's would be 40x PSUs.

Sd's positive comments about the value of large state schools (I'm a grad of one on the list) are also on target. Just saying if you take this survey as evidence that your earning power will be greater at PSU than Princeton, you're crazy. Go to the best school you can.

Posted by: Darn | Sep 13, 2010 2:59:04 PM

Indeed, many questions about the methodogy. Like who chose the respondents and on what basis?

My experience here in Norhtern California is that typical engineering students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo are preferred over UC-Berkeley, for example, because the Cal Poly grads were much easier to put to work doing useful industrial activities while the Berkeley grads had a much more theoritical focus. For some, but not MOST, jobs, theory is preferred. Do they know how to use a pump curve or calculate a breaker overcurrent setting? Or are they experts on neutrinos?

Posted by: Whitehall | Sep 13, 2010 2:39:35 PM

As a practical matter, colleges are becoming more important for their ability to prepare students for entry into elite graduate schools.

Posted by: Brad Rorem | Sep 13, 2010 2:00:56 PM

From the methodology:

"Respondents could only rank schools and majors from which they actively recruit."

So in other words, schools with a greater number of students will show up higher on the list by definition, as will schools where most students get a job directly out of college rather than pursuing post-graduate education.

In othjer words - junk methodology, junk result.

Now, don't me wrong. I think that best of America's big public universities are great institutions, that make America stronger and that serve their graduates well. And I think that the best students at these institutions are just as competitive as graduates of the ivies.

But to infer that Texas A&M (which probably sends upowards of 10,000 graduates into the job market each year), is somehow "better" than Harvard (which probably sends a few hundred students into the job market if you exclude a handful of banks and consultancies) because it shows up higher in an un-indexed list of recruiter preferences for who-knows-what jobs is stupid to say the least.

Posted by: sd | Sep 13, 2010 1:36:54 PM

Depends also on specialty. For example, if you are looking for entry level engineers you may want to focus on those engineering schools that provide coop education like Cincinnati or Northeastern. Also locale plays a part if you are a company in the area that wants entry level employees who see a long term tenure in that locale without having to constantly relocate to catch up.

Posted by: Jack is Back! | Sep 13, 2010 1:24:24 PM

This is going to encourage some students to choose larger schools because of their corporate relationships, developed because of cost-cutting. I certainly see the recruiters' POV. But they haven't established a higher quality at the larger schools, just greater efficiency for them.

"Oh, no, William & Mary won't do..."

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot | Sep 13, 2010 1:21:17 PM

Missing in action: Hahvaad, Princeton
Missing in spirit: Whatsamatta U., University of Hard Knocks

Posted by: PacRim Jim | Sep 13, 2010 1:07:02 PM

That's a poll that counts (and writes checks!). I heard today that this may be the toughest jobs market for new college graduates in 35 years (about the time I started). Employers also want common sense which, Mark Twain said, "is not common".

Posted by: WKWillis | Sep 13, 2010 1:01:23 PM

I have to question the methodology here. The schools listed are overwhelmingly large universities, public and private. By producing more graduates, the recruiters themselves have a larger demographic to come to conclusions about. Hiring 2 good employees from a small liberal arts college in the midwest in the last 10 years makes it harder to form an impression than hiring 40 Ohio State grads, of whom 80% were good employees. The list also doesn't differentiate between the type and payscale of the jobs the recruiters are placing for. If a college has a great reputation among low-paid ditch-diggers, is that better than a college with a middling reputation among corporate elites? Also, many of these schools are noted for their extremely strong alumni networks (also an advantage of larger universities).

If the utility of college is primarily determined by the strength of the brand-name (earned or unearned) and alumni connections (certainly a defensible position) this is a good methodology. It doesn't necessarily mean that these schools have the best value-add, though.

This isn't to say that the US News list is any better; it's garbage if you ask me. But this list doesn't necessarily point out the schools with the best education.

Posted by: Matt | Sep 13, 2010 12:48:47 PM

my daughter got hired within minutes after graduation as a Penn State engineering major...she is a 2009 grad....many, many of her fellow high school grad friends are flipping burgers or not employed, most went to "upper tier" schools.....

Posted by: jjkrn | Sep 13, 2010 12:40:53 PM


WE'RE NO. 2, WE'RE No....wait a minute.

Srsly tho, hullaballoo caneck caneck

Posted by: seguin | Sep 13, 2010 12:34:00 PM

Not to quibble too much, but USC is neither a public, nor a state university.

- Ian

Posted by: ian | Sep 13, 2010 12:32:00 PM

It looks to me like the WSJ winners all have stronger science and technology programs than most of the more esteemed US News winners. PC has less impact on those programs.

Posted by: Glenmore | Sep 13, 2010 12:26:19 PM

Now let's map the universities of high-ranking members of the Administration onto that list.

Posted by: David Himrich | Sep 13, 2010 12:13:07 PM

Now if Illinois would just stop letting politicians' kids jump the line ahead of other applicants...

Posted by: MarkInFla | Sep 13, 2010 12:11:03 PM

And those ranking mean one heckuva lot more to people looking at school these days ... moreso than US News rankings, to be sure.

Almost looks like a pre-made Big Ten commercial!

Posted by: LTC John | Sep 13, 2010 12:01:53 PM

My alma mater is #5? Go Sun Devils!!!

(Yeah, we do have our heads a little more in reality....we didn't give Obummer an honorary doctorate....we wanted proof of actual accomplishment first....)

Posted by: KoryO | Sep 13, 2010 11:54:45 AM