In September, U.S. News and World Report will publish its annual college rankings, as it has been doing since 1983. Although colleges clamor to be at the top of these lists, students and parents should be aware that the rankings have many flaws. Nearly seven years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “U.S. News College Rankings: How Valuable Are They?” (The answer: not very.) More recently, Lynn O’Shaughnessy of The College Solution wrote a blog post called “15 Reasons to Ignore U.S. News & World Report’s College Rankings.”
Many college admissions professionals agree with Lynn and me that the U.S. News rankings are not a reliable source for evaluating colleges. If you feel the same way, you may be wondering what other sources are available. Below are descriptions of several other rankings and lists that may provide more useful information in your college search.
CollegeXpress: As explained in a recent blog post, CollegeXpress has over 800 lists of colleges based on specific (and sometimes unusual) criteria. The lists are grouped into several categories, including majors (i.e., “Colleges with Great Biology Programs”), the learning environment (i.e., “Colleges with Unique or Highly Specialized Majors”), and the student experience (i.e., “Colleges Working to Improve Race Relations”). Some of the lists say “produced by the experts.” Those experts, according to CollegExpress, are “admission representatives, high school counselors, educational planners, and other industry pros.”
Money Magazine’s Best Colleges in America, Ranked by Value: As college costs continue to skyrocket, many families are concerned about affording a college education. Money‘s rankings of over 700 four-year colleges are based on 26 factors in three categories: quality of education (including graduation rate, instructor quality, and financial troubles), affordability (including net price, debt, and ability to repay debt), and outcomes (including graduates’ earnings, employment outcomes, and socio-economic mobility). Each category was given equal weighting in determining a college’s ranking.
National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE): Since 2000, this annual survey has asked students at hundreds of colleges “about