Which ‘College Towns’ Are Best?

Mlive: “The personal finance website Wallethub has once again named the home of the University of Michigan the best small college town in America in a survey released on Tuesday. This is at least the fifth-straight year Ann Arbor has claimed the top spot in the sub-category. Additionally, Ann Arbor was named the No. 3 college town overall, trailing only Austin, Texas, the home of the University of Texas and Orlando, the home of the University of Central Florida.”

“Wallethub analysts compared more than 400 U.S. cities of varying sizes based on 30 key indicators of academic, social and economic opportunities for students including cost of living, quality of higher education, nightlife and crime rate. Ann Arbor’s rank is thanks in large part to its ranking in the social environment category where it is No. 23. The category examines several factors including amount of young people, gender balance, nightlife, cafes, breweries, food trucks, shopping centers, sports, festivals and attractions.”

Read the entire report here.

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The Top 10 ‘Most Underrated’ Colleges

Boston.com: “CollegeVine, a Cambridge-based college guidance company, recently examined the ‘most underrated’ colleges in the United States, by comparing their cost of attendance and generosity of financial aid with ‘qualitative data’ on students’ career outcomes. Unlike traditional college rankings, CollegeVine co-founder Vinay Bhaskara said they primarily focused on financial outcomes, like students’ starting salary and return on investment one and five years after graduating, as well as ‘qualitative outcomes like job placements’.”

“The No. 1 school on the list is San Jose State University … The second most underrated college was the University of Houston, followed by SUNY Binghamton, City College of New York, George Mason University, WPI, Fordham University, and University of Texas at Austin — with Babson and Wellesley rounding out the list.”

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Stanford Study Says Rankings Don’t Matter

Inside Higher Ed: “A new study from researchers at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education examines all of the evidence about rankings and comes to this conclusion: the best way to find a college that is a ‘good fit’ is to ignore the rankings. Notably, the finding isn’t based on abstract ideas about the value of education not being something that can be measured. Rather, the analysis is based on research about factors many students (and parents) say they take into consideration when they evaluate potential colleges: student learning, well-being, job satisfaction and future income. If you care about those factors, the rankings will not steer you well, the paper says.”

“Key factors in U.S. News and other rankings reward graduation rates and reputation. U.S. News has, over the years, placed more emphasis not just on raw graduation rates but ‘expected’ graduation rates to reward institutions with higher than expected rates for students from at-risk populations. But the Stanford study finds that graduation rates still reflect the student body being served more than the quality of the institution. And the study says there is no evidence linking reputation to anything but … reputation. So reputation is ‘a self-fulfilling metric’.”

“The report adds that ‘rather than choosing a school based primarily on a flawed scoring system, students should ask whether they will be engaged at the college in ways that will allow them to form strong relationships with professors and mentors, apply their learning via internships and long-term projects, and find a sense of community’.”

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Late & Great: Mel Elfin

The New York Times: “Mel Elfin, a longtime Washington bureau chief for Newsweek who moved to the rival U.S. News & World Report in 1986 and helped build its college rankings feature into a major educational franchise, died on Saturday in Washington … The rankings had begun in a rudimentary way in 1983, but under Mr. Elfin’s stewardship their criteria were broadened, graduate schools were ranked and U.S. News’s Best Colleges guidebook was published, expanding on the information in the magazine (which is now published only online).”

“Mr. Elfin … faced pushback about the quality and meaning of the rankings. Some critics believed that the rankings formula created a false air of scientific certainty, caused colleges and universities to adjust their policies — or fudge their figures — to raise their rankings, and turned the choice of a college from an essentially educational issue to a high-stakes economic and social transaction. And some school officials howled when their institutions dropped in rank.”

“But Mr. Elfin defended the rankings as an effective way for students and parents to comparison-shop for higher education.” He commented: “When you buy a VCR for 200 bucks, you can buy Consumer Reports to find out what’s out there … When you spend 100 grand on four years of college, you should have some independent method of comparing different colleges. That’s what our readers want, and they’ve voted at the newsstand in favor of what we’re doing.” Mel Elfin was 89.

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US News Announces 2018 Rankings

US News: “Princeton University is No. 1 for Best National Universities for the seventh year in a row. For the 15th consecutive year, Williams College takes the top spot for Best National Liberal Arts Colleges.”

“California schools and military academies perform strongly in this year’s top public universities rankings. For the first time, the University of California—Los Angeles moves up to No. 1 for Top Public Schools among National Universities, tying with the University of California—Berkeley. The United States Military Academy ranks No. 1 for Top Public Schools among National Liberal Arts Colleges.”

You can access the full report here.

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UK Universities Top Global Rankings

The Wall Street Journal: “Oxford and Cambridge, the intellectual one-two punch of the U.K., took the first and second spots in the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Their showing marked the first year schools outside the U.S. seized the two top positions in the 14-year history of the list. The U.S., led by California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, took seven of the top 11 spots.”

“Peking University and Tsinghua University topped Chinese schools, ranking 27th and 30th, respectively. That placed them ahead of the Georgia Institute of Technology (No. 33), Brown University (No. 51) and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (No. 56) … The World University Ranking awards about a third of its score to the research generated by a university’s scholars, in part by culling 62 million citations and 12.4 million research publications. Research funding also plays a role.”

“The ascendance of Oxford and Cambridge comes after years of increases in research revenue—but much of that money, as well as the researchers who use it, come from the European Union. Britain’s decision to withdraw from the EU has thrown that revenue source into question … The rise of Chinese universities also comes as the Chinese Communist Party has invested heavily in research universities.”

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Ranking the Return on Your College Investment

The New York Times: “Earnings data are finding their way into a proliferating number of mainstream college rankings, shifting the competitive landscape of American higher education in often surprising ways. This fall, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education … introduced their first college rankings. Forty percent of their result is measures of ‘outcomes’ — earnings, graduation rate and loan repayment rate.”

“Last year The Economist released its first college rankings, and it relies even more heavily on earnings data … The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has issued another set of rankings, adjusting the College Scorecard salary rankings first for choice of major … and yet another ranking that assesses students’ expected earnings, given their characteristics when they entered college, to the actual outcome … Both Forbes and Money magazines, in their rankings, incorporate PayScale data on earnings.”

“It should go without saying that the value of an education should never be reduced to purely monetary terms.” Phil Baty of Times Higher Education comments: “The success of a college graduate should not be measured purely in terms of the salaries they earn. There’s more to life than a high salary. This is why we’ve also put an emphasis on how much the student is intellectually engaged, stimulated and stretched by their college education.”

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