Are you curious about how various US higher educational institutions
are ranked? Here's some help to get you started -- plus some great
resources for further information:
There are numerous publications that rank US colleges, universities
and graduate schools. Rankings may appear in newspapers, popular
magazines, books, college guides, scholarly journals and government
Use these rankings as a starting point for selecting schools
for consideration. But beware of selecting a school simply because
of its ranking on a particular list.
Use Your Judgment
Keep in mind that what is "best" on one list may not be so on
another. That's because various ranking systems differ in terms
of their methodologies -- and how they determine the characteristics
of a top school. Some ranking systems base their evaluations primarily
on subjective surveys, while others focus more upon objective
In fact, many schools do not support, and some even boycott,
popular ranking systems. That's because they feel the rankings
do not capture each school's individuality or fairly represent
its qualities. For best results, evaluate and compare various
rankings. But don't follow any one system blindly.
These school rankings have their shortcomings. However, they
are read by millions of people, including the general public,
potential applicants and employers. A school's ranking can have
a significant impact on the quality of its applicants, faculty
and recruiters. Not to mention, the amount of money it can raise.
Most Common Ranking Methodologies
Educational Rankings Annual (ERA) reports the most common
four ranking methodologies to evaluate schools include:
1) Reputational rankings;
2) Citation analysis [the number of citations appearing in
printed works written by a school's faculty];
3) Faculty research and publication productivity; and
4) Statistical rankings [such as colleges with the highest
endowments, the largest library facilities, the most selective
admissions rates, etc.].
Many publications follow the Common Data Set (CDS) as a standard
format for collecting information on schools. This helps them
standardize the core information used in guidebooks and other
- Admission requirements
- Graduation rates
- Academic offerings and policies
- Student life
- Annual expenses, financial aid, scholarships and grants.
Not all rankings publications adhere to the CDS. Even those that
use this system may add additional categories to their surveys.
Brief Descriptions of Selected Resources
Following are a number of helpful resources about school rankings:
QS World University Rankings
This is QS's flagship ranking, established in 2004. It currently features the world's top 800 universities, with the aim of helping international students compare universities across countries on indicators reflecting global reputation, research impact, staffing levels and internationalisation. Unsurprisingly, US universities are a very strong presence.
Asia Inc. ( Irregularly)
Asia Inc. is an English-language business periodical published
in Asia. In 1994, it published a survey of thousands of recruiters
in Asia titled "Asia Inc.'s Top MBA Programs in the World." It
asked the recruiters to list the top 25 business schools in the
world for Asian executives.
BusinessWeek began ranking American business schools in 1988.
It publishes its list of the top twenty schools every two years.
The magazine bases its rankings on surveys of recent graduates
and reputation surveys at large corporations. Questionnaires are
mailed to more than 6,000 graduates of the 44 top schools, and
surveys are conducted at more than 350 large companies.
Educational Rankings Annual (Annually)
Educational Rankings Annual is published by Gale Research Inc.
This book selectively collects and reprints rankings prepared
by various rankings publications. According to the book's editors,
"It does not include rankings publications which have received
extensive negative criticism by ranking experts."
The Gourman Report (Annually)
The Gourman Report is an annual ranking of colleges, universities,
graduate and professional schools. It is published by the National
Education Standards organization. The report looks at a variety
of qualitative and quantitative sources for evaluation. These
include the quality of faculty, students, research, administration,
libraries, career counseling, financial aid, computing facilities
and curriculum. It also considers the program's history, admission
criteria and financial stability.
The Gourman Report rates American universities according to the
Acceptable Plus 3.51-3.99
Money Magazine (Annually)
Money Magazine publishes its list of "Best College Values"
each year. In this ranking, schools are selected on the basis
of their cost in relation to other factors, such as reputation,
quality of education, quality of faculty, and so on.
Princeton Review's Best 311 Colleges (Annually)
This guide annually chooses a "College of the Year." Rankings
are broken down into nine categories:
- Quality of Life
- Social Life
- Extracurricular Activities
- Schools by Type
A panel of professors, administrators and other education experts
formulate the criteria and forward the candidate schools to the
guide's editors. Some rankings are based on student surveys.
Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States, Continuity
and Change (Irregularly)
Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States, Continuity
and Change is a four-year study of 3,634 academic programs
at 274 institutions. It was published in 1995 by the National
Among the study data gathered:
- Number of graduate degrees granted annually by each institution
- Average number of faculty receiving federal grants, faculty
awards and honors
- Percentage of degrees earned by women and minorities
Science Watch (Irregularly)
Science Watch is a scholarly journal that periodically evaluates
academic programs and schools based on objective statistical methods
such as citation analysis.
US News & World Report's America's Best Colleges (Annually)
This guide ranks schools by the following attributes: reputation,
retention, faculty resources, selectivity, financial resources,
value added (for the national universities) and alumni giving.
Each of these attributes is given a percentage value that is
used to calculate a school's total score. This guide ranks public
and private schools; national and regional schools; and specialty
programs. It also ranks schools on a state-by-state basis.