…popular rankings from U.S. News, Forbes, and Money focus only on a small fraction of four-year colleges and tend to reward highly selective institutions over those that may contribute the most to student success.
So they have attempted to analyze both 2-year and 4-year college programs on a “value-added” based approach that attempts to calculate the difference between the actual mid-career salary of alumni and an estimation of what a graduate from a similar school would have earned given his / her characteristics.
The idea of this approach is to take factors like academic preparation, race and ethnicity, family income, and location of school into consideration and identify which schools typically add meaningful value over and above what a candidate can expect to get in any other similar school. The entire purpose of this ranking is to better predict outcomes for a given student, without the selection biases that come with purely looking at the top schools.
When you look at their ranking of four-year programs, technology focused universities like CalTech and MIT do very well, as you would expect. Interestingly, Colgate University lands at #2, and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at #4, on the back of strong earnings power and loan repayment. There is no ivy league school in their top 20.
All of these rankings are subjective. If accurate, they represent the median scenario. It’s worth considering all the rankings, and overall prestige. Despite what the rankings say, candidates aren’t going to start refusing Harvard by the droves, nor should they. When thinking of applying to schools, candidates should consider a wide range of factors that are important to them, and compose a portfolio of schools that include “reach” brands and safety schools. We think this ranking by the Brookings Institute is an excellent tool. We highly recommend reading the entire report here.