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College Rankings

Every year academia and industry alike seem to make a big deal about the newest lists and college rankings. You've got to admit, we all love and are fascinated with lists. Top 10 lists, Top 100, etc., etc. So are these lists really that important? Yes! While some people simply find these lists and rankings to be fascinating, many soon-to-be college students, aspiring professionals as well as those in academia and industry rely on the information these lists provide to make important decisions. For example, a top 10 engineering college rankings list can easily sway a student's decision in what college they choose to attend.

Additionally, studies have shown that if you attend a Top 10 business school, you will receive a higher starting salary than students attending lower ranked programs. Or if you graduate from an Ive League Law School you're likely to have 2 to 3 times the number of job offers than students with degrees from competiting institutions. It seems if a student does attend a top ranked college or elite Ivy League School, they are nearly guaranteed success.

Notwithstanding the importance of these lists, there is no set standard or universal guidelines in ranking colleges. Every major organization that produces college rankings has their own set of guidelines and methodology. Over the years there has been considerable debate over the methods used to generate college rankings. In fact, a number of universities are considering opting out of yearly surveys and rankings sent out by the US News & World Report, Princeton Review and similar organizations--and many private liberal arts schools already have! Additionally, in 2007 Annapolis Group, which represents over 130 liberal arts colleges, issued statement asking its members not to participate in ranking surveys.

Our College Ranking Methodology

Our college ranking methodology is quite simple. We select the best from the best! The editor compiled college rankings published throughout the CollegeAtlas.org website are a composite of the major college ranking indices including the US News & World Report, Princeton Review, Newsweek, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and to a lesser degree several other publications including but not limited to The Washington Monthly and Kiplinger. By producing a composite rankings report that incorporates all major ranking indices we're able to weed out inconsistencies in rankings, eliminate bias, and provide a more accurate, conservative and complete view of one college's position relative to that of the others.

Major college rankings publications:
  • US News & World Report
    Arguably the most famous college ranking publication as it has been going for almost three decades. However, it's important to note that the US News & World Report does not rank anyo public universities in the nation's top twenty on there list of best colleges.

  • Princeton Review
    Of all the college ranking publications the Princeton Review produces one of the widest varieties of college rankings, including Best Colleges, Party Schools, Jock Schools, and Happiest Students, just to name a few. Their college ranking reports are based on survey feedback received from more than 122,000 students across the United States. Their wide range of college rankings can be found in their book: The Best 366 Colleges. Many of their rankings can also be access via their website once you suscribe as a member.

  • Kaplan/Newsweek
    Each year Newsweek publishes their list of the "Hottest Colleges" in the nation. To produce their college ranking lists they interview admissions officials, educational consultants, students, parents, College and University leaders and high-school counselors. In a fashion somewhat similar to the Pinceton Review, Newsweek ranks the number one hottest College in categories such as: The Hottest Ivy, Hottest Music School, Hottest Catholic School, and Hottest for Business.

  • Forbes
    Every two years Forbes magazine takes an indepth look at the Best Business Schools in America. Their rankings are based on student surveys on return on investment. The ROI of a Business MBA is calculated at five years salary after graduation minus tuition and the forgone salary during school. The overall business schools rankings provided by Forbes is designed to measure your return on investment in the business education provided by business schools nation wide.

  • Washington Monthly
    In contrast to other publications, rankings and lists produced by the The Washington Monthly are based on the contribution each individual University actually makes to the country, specifically research, service, and social mobility. The research criterion is based on the amount of money the school receives from the federal government in research grants and the number of PhDs awarded. The service criterion ranks the school by students that go on to serve in the Peace Corps or ROTC, and the percent of federal work-study funds that goes to community service. Social mobility factors include how well schools graduate poorer students and if the school does a good job recruiting. It ranked this year's #1 school as Texas A&M as opposed to Texas A&M being ranked 62nd in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. While the college rankings produced by The Washington Monthly are insightful you can see where some may question their usefullness.

  • Wall Street Journal
    The WSJ's Top Business Schools list is based on rankings of corporate recruiters' favorite M.B.A. programs. This is another different yet useful measure for ranking colleges.

  • Business Week
    Similar to Forbes, every two years Business Week also comes up with its ranking of the best business schools. Their college rankings look a a variety of criterion including faculty, career services (help students get jobs) and overall customer satisfaction (both student and those that hire them).

  • Kiplinger
    Kiplinger produces what most people would consider a sound college ranking report based on pragmatic criterion. Kiplinger ranks their colleges based on academic quality, cost and financial aid. Of course tuition varies from in-state to out-of-state, so they made rankings for both scenarios.
Our Disclaimer. It is the opinion of CollegeAtlas.org that while attending a top ranked college may increase near-term earning potential and job opportunities, in many instances students who attend schools not in the top 10 may actually receive a better education and may be better equipped for the job. We do not believe that college ranking reports as presented on this website, any other website, or major ranking organization should be construed as an absolute indication of quality of education provided by an individual college or group of colleges. It is shortsighted and naive to believe that the complexities of American higher education can be reduced to just one number.
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