Overview of Justification of the Rankings Selected
Justification of the Rankings Selected is very important. College rankings are important for students planning to study at a college. Sometimes, a student makes his or her choice simply by comparing the candidate colleges in different rankings and reading comments online. The factors they consider may vary from academic rankings to post-graduation salary rankings, from campus life to financial aid resources, from faculty resources to reputation, and so on. Accordingly, rankings composed of different factors are designed to help students make their choices. So, among all the rankings, which are more popular? What are some representatives? What are their methodologies? Where do they gather data? To answer the above questions, we started with the rankings we used when we chose our colleges. Such examples are U.S. News and World Report National University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, College Guide by Washington Monthly, and Academic Ranking of World Universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Then, to enlarge the number of rankings we consider, we searched online to see what additional rankings we could find. When searching “College Rankings” in Google, the entries come to the top of the page include college rankings from U.S. News, America’s Top Colleges List from Forbes, College Guide from Washington Monthly, College Rankings from Princeton Review, and so on. Most of them are U.S.-only rankings. In the next several pages of search results, most of the rankings are sports rankings, which do not seem as important as the ones in the first page, since the majority of students would not consider sports as a factor of vital importance. When searching “World Rankings”, websites like Times Higher Education World University Rankings and QS World University Rankings come out. A link from U.S. News comes out first, but this is only an article about world universities, rather than a ranking. With the help of Professor Wills, other rankings were also looked at. A paper called “Global University Rankings and Their Impact Report II” gave more clues. Therefore rankings based on research like CWTS  and Web metrics were added.
Table summarizes all of the rankings considered.
|Forbes||America’s Top Colleges||U.S.-only|
|Kiplinger||Kiplinger’s Best Values in Private Colleges||U.S.-only|
|Pay Scale||College Education Value Rankings||U.S.-only|
|U.S. News||National University Rankings||U.S.-only|
|Washington Monthly||2013 National University Rankings||U.S.-only|
|CWTS||CWTS Leiden Ranking 2013||World|
|QS||QS World University Rankings – 2012||World|
|Shanghai Jiao Tong University||Academic position of globe Universities||World|
|Times Higher Education||THE World University Rankings||World|
|Web metrics||Ranking Web of Universities||World|
Overall, both worldwide and U.S.-only rankings were chosen to be studied. They also have different focuses: some of them focus more on academics and reputation, while others focus more on campus life and post-graduation success. Other resources such as College Prowler, Department of Education College Scorecard, and College Reality Check were also examined. Students can refer to these websites for useful information relating to their college of choice that is not presented in the rankings.
Classification of Factors into Categories
To analyze different rankings, a common set of criteria first needs to be defined for the rankings in order to enable comparisons between many different rankings.
Initial Categories: Input, Output, University
Initially, we produced the idea of sorting the factors into the categories of Input, Output, and University. Input contains factors describing the quality of the incoming student body. Examples of such factors include student selectivity (from U.S. News and World Report), and the proportion of international students (from QS). The output contains factors describing the quality of life after graduation. Such factors include quality of education (from ARWU-Shanghai), Forbes America leaders (from Forbes), and service (from Washington Monthly). University contains factors describing the quality of the university itself, the resources for students and facility quality. Such factors include quality of faculty (from ARWU-Shanghai), research output (from ARWU-Shanghai), and student satisfaction (from Forbes). Then we put every 14 factors from each ranking into the corresponding category and calculated the proportion of each category in a specific ranking.
Division of University Category
However, we found our initial division of factors into categories to be unsatisfactory. We had a large proportion of the factors falling under the University category. Upon analyzing the factors within the University category, we realized that the factors need to be further divided into specific categories. From our University category, we created the categories of Faculty Quality, Academic Quality, Non-Academic Quality, and Finance. At the same time, we decided to rename our Input category to Student Quality to more accurately reflect what was measured by the factors in that category and our Output category to Post-Graduation Success.
We also added an Unknown category to temporarily store the factors we were uncertain about. The Unknown category was filled with factors that we did not know how to categorize, primary factors that fit into two or more of the categories we already had. Due to the factors present in the Unknown category, we decided to examine our categories to see if we could condense two or more categories into a single category. Our reexamination provided the impetus for the creation of the Research category.
Creation of the Research Category
When looking at the factors contained in the categories of Faculty Quality and Academic Quality we had a difficult time placing some of the factors in one category or another. Upon inspection, we noticed that the factors we had difficulty placing shared a common theme: They were related to research. Due to this, we decided to create an additional category, Research, to house these factors. With the addition of the Research category, we had seven categories. We also modified the definition of the category of Faculty Quality.
Removal of Faculty Category
With the creation of the Research category, we had a place for the factors which we had a difficult time deciding whether they belonged in the Faculty Quality category or the Academic Quality category. However, this left a few factors in both the Faculty Quality and Academic Quality categories, as we realized that some of the factors we previously had under Academic Quality could be considered as 15 types of research. Dissatisfied with the two categories, we examined the factors remaining to see if there was any way of combining the two categories. We noted that the remaining factors under the category of Faculty Quality related to the teaching ability of the professors. With this in mind, we decided to remove the Faculty Quality category and merge the contents into Academic Quality. As a result of this change, we ended up with six categories. We also modified the names of the categories to more accurately reflect the factors contained within.
Here is a list of categories considered and their definitions correspondingly.
Category 1: Student Body
This category contains factors relating to aspects of the student body of the college or university. This includes factors such as admission rate, average SAT/ACT scores, and student diversity.
Category 2: Research
This category contains factors relating to the research output of the college or university. It includes factors such as the total number of citations for faculty at each university per year and research funding.
Category 3: Academics
This category contains factors relating to the academic quality of the college or university. Such factors include the reputation of the school, student to faculty ratio, and graduation rate.
Category 4: Student Life
This category contains factors relating to the daily life of the students at the college or university. It includes factors such as athletics, social scene, community service, ROTC size, and so on.
Category 5: Finance
This category contains factors relating to finance. Such factors include student debt, average financial aid, and endowment.
Category 6: Post-Graduation Success
This category contains factors relating to post-graduation success. Such factors include the salary of graduates and the acceptance rate to graduate schools.
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