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U.S. News & World Report’s American’s Best Colleges Ranking Methodology. Office of Institutional Research Song Yan, Kristy Maxwell, Mark A. Byrd Associate Director Senior Research Analyst AVP . Wayne State University. Agenda. U.S. News Best Colleges ranking background

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u s news world report s american s best colleges ranking methodology

U.S. News & World Report’s American’s Best Colleges Ranking Methodology

Office of Institutional Research

Song Yan, Kristy Maxwell, Mark A. Byrd

Associate Director Senior Research Analyst AVP

Wayne State University

agenda
Agenda
  • U.S. News Best Colleges ranking background
  • Methodology:
    • Details on how the Best Colleges rankings are calculated
    • How each ranking variable is computed and how each estimate is calculated
  • New changes to the rankings
  • Criticism of the rankings
background
Background
  • First ranking published in 1983
  • It’s purpose was to be a starting point for families searching for a college
  • Allows for comparison of relative cost, “quality,” retention and graduation rates
  • In September 2011, U.S. News Education section had 4.5 million unique visitors (announced by U.S. News)
  • Rankings published by U.S News in 2012:
    • Best Colleges, September 2012
    • Best Grad Schools, March, 2012
    • Best High Schools, May 2012
    • Top online Programs, January, 2012 (first time)
    • World’s Best Universities, October 2012
best colleges ranking categories
Best Colleges Ranking Categories
  • Ranking categories:

Based on Carnegie Basic Classification

    • National Universities: (Offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and Ph.D. programs, and faculty emphases on research)
    • National Liberal Arts Colleges (focus almost exclusively on undergraduate education)
    • Regional Universities (offer a broad scope of undergraduate degrees and some master’s degree programs, but a few, if any, doctoral programs)
    • Regional Colleges (focus on undergraduate but grant fewer than 50% of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines)
ranking methodology
Ranking Methodology
  • Quantitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality
  • Gather data from each college on up to 16 indictors of academic excellence
  • Each factor is assigned a weight.
  • Colleges and universities in each category are ranked against their peers, based on their composite weighted score
undergraduate academic reputation1
Undergraduate Academic Reputation
  • Equation*:

Academic Reputation= Z avg. Peer assessment score * (15%) + Z avg. HS Counselor Score * (7.5%)

Estimates for missing: None

* For National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges

student selectivity1
Student Selectivity
  • Equation*:

Z Student selectivity= Z test score * (50%) + Z high school class standing * (40%) + Z acceptance rate * (10%)

Estimates for missing: one standard deviation less category’s mean

* For National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges

faculty resources2
Faculty Resources
  • Equation:

Z Faculty resources= Z avg. salaries * (35%) + Z avg. w/term degree * (15%) + Z faculty ft * (5%) + Z student faculty ratio * (5%) +Z % class <20 * (30%) + Z % class 50 or more * (10%)

Estimates for missing: one standard deviation less category’s mean

graduation and retention rates1
Graduation and Retention Rates
  • Equation:

Z Graduation and retention= Z avg. 6-yr grad rate * (80%) + Z avg. fresh retention rate * (20%)

Estimates for missing: IPEDS or NCAA data; Otherwise, one standard deviation less category’s mean

recent changes
Recent Changes
  • Rankings categories have been updated
    • Update to Carnegie basic classification (2010)
  • For-profit institutions are included (2011)
    • All for-profit colleges and universities grant bachelor’s degree and regionally accredited.
  • Non-responders are handled differently
    • For schools refused to fill out U.S. News survey for at least two years and for school news to the ranking, made extensive use of data from NCES.
recent changes continued
Recent Changes (continued)
  • Now collecting graduation rates of students who received a federal Pell grant, a subsidized Stafford loan but not a Pell grant, and students who received neither.
  • May add collection of data for affordability and technology
    • Graduation rates by race
    • Net price of attending by EFC
    • Average loan size
    • # of degrees awarded per student
    • Ways colleges using technology (computer accessibility, wireless Internet, technical support, etc.)
data sources
Data Sources
  • Most data come from the college, U.S News Main Survey, Financial Aid Survey
  • In 2011, 93% of the 1,378 ranked college and universities returned the survey
  • Obtain missing data from AAUP, National Collegiate Athletics Association, the Council for Aid to Education, and the NCES
  • Estimates are used in the ranking calculation when schools fail to report particular data points.
schools excluded from the ranking
Schools Excluded from the Ranking

Schools are unranked and listed separately by category if

  • They do Not use the SAT or ACT test scores in admissions decisions for FTIAC, or
  • Too few respondents to the peer assessment survey, or
  • Have fewer than 200 total enrollment, or
  • Large proportion of nontraditional students and no first-year students
  • Also a few highly specialized schools in arts, business, and engineering
ir and u s news rankings
IR and U.S. News Rankings
  • AIR members could (& have) provide feedback and suggestions to U.S. News
  • Two weeks prior to the release of rankings, email alert sent to survey respondents to Main and Fin Aid survey
  • Free one-month short-terms passes for College Compass
  • One day prior to the official rankings release date, survey respondents were sent notification and be able to access to two years of published ranking tables in PDF on a non-public website
  • AIR members can receive U.S. News published ranking table in Excel format (need to send an email to request the Excel spreadsheets to rmorse@usnews.com or dtolis@usnews.com
  • Unpublished rankings available by request (send email to request)
top 10 criticisms of us news college ranking
Top 10 Criticisms of US News College Ranking
  • #10 Oversimplification: Comes from Stanford University’s FUNC (Forget US News Coalition) & Reed College who in the mid-90s argued “that ranking something as complex and variable as a college education with a single number is an oversimplification. “ FUNC claimed “that the process makes college administrations focus on numerical rankings rather than on educating students.“ Casper, Gerhard (18 April 1997)
top 10 criticisms of us news college ranking continued
Top 10 Criticisms of US News College Ranking (continued)
  • #9 Peer assessments:
    • College Presidents may have outdated or no knowledge of institutions they are ranking
    • College Participation among Presidents was 43% in 2011, down 5 percentage points overall.
    • May rank competitors low
    • Low participation rates, amongst high school counselors
slide26

Top 10 Criticisms of US News College Ranking (continued)

  • #8 Data manipulation: As early as 1994 when the Wall Street Journal disclosed that institutions flagrantly manipulating data in order to move up in the rankings in U.S.
slide27

Top 10 Criticisms of US News College Ranking (continued)

  • #7Not much weight given to cost of attendance
top 10 criticisms of us news college ranking continued1
Top 10 Criticisms of US News College Ranking (continued)
  • #5 Institutional differences not taken into account
  • Diverse student body
  • Institutional mission
top 10 criticisms of us news college ranking continued2
Top 10 Criticisms of US News College Ranking (continued)
  • #4 Lack of data definition standards in the data collection process.