Gigi and Maria have posted about the ever-popular US News best-colleges list, which, by itself, seems to be maintaining the US News brand. Not surprisingly, it’s spawned competitors, notably Kiplinger’s, which focuses on value, and, for the last two years, Forbes, which focuses on …. MWAH HA HA kookiness.
To its credit, Forbes has a really long page explaining its methodology. Not to its credit, the methodology is nutty. In a nutshell, 25% of ranking is based on rankings of the school’s professors on ratemyprofessor.com, 25% on “indicators of post-graduate employment success” (based on data from “Who’s Who in America” and payscale.com), 20% on average student loan debt, 16.67% on likelihood of graduation in four years, 8.33 percent on faculty awards (like the Nobel Prize), and 5 % on student awards (like Rhodes Scholarships).
The dumbest aspect, and the one that’s raised the most ire on Forbes’ comments board, is the Rate My Professor data: even if you accept the (highly dubious) proposition that faculty popularity is the best and only (!) measure of academic quality, RMP is a completely self-selected popularity contest with zero controls: that is, anyone on the globe can go on there and rate any professor on any campus, as many times as he or she wants!
The other metrics have their own problems, except for the student and faculty awards, which I like, as a reasonable way to assess the achievements of both. (For students, it ahs the advantage of addressing achievements at the school, as opposed to US News’ SAT scores, which is all about what your pre-college self.)
I guess the ultimate proof of the daft-ness of Forbes’ rankings is it selection of “America’s Best College.” Ahead of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale is …. The United States Military Academy! Well, duh. Everybody gets a job on graduation, and nobody pays any tuition, so that aces 45% of the rankings. I’d guess that West Point doesn’t look too kindly on mid-college “gap years,” so the four-year graduation rate has got to be golden. As for the Rate My Professor data, I don’t imagine there’s too much public grumbling up there on the Hudson.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure West Point is a fine institution. Just not for the reasons Forbes gives.