Considering the College Rankings: Forbes vs. US News

College ranking is controversial, and not just because school pride dictates we consider our college or alma mater the best. On the heels of Forbes announcement of the best colleges in the states, US News has released its behemoth of a report. The two reports have fairly different conclusions, so it’s best to consider the different criteria used by each report.
The two reports obviously have different criteria. Forbes specializes in ranking colleges with a high level of student input. The first question in their published criteria asks if students enjoy their classes and overall academic experience. Next they consider how well graduates do in their post-college careers and how many students graduate in four years or less. They do not reveal how they weight the rest of their criteria, but they do say that each counts for less than 20 percent.

Here’s how the two rankings match up:


1. Williams College
2. Princeton University
3. Amherst College
4. United States Military Academy (West Point)
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6. Stanford University
7. Swarthmore College
8. Harvard University
9. Claremont McKenna College
10. Yale University

US News

1. Harvard University
2. Princeton University
3. Yale University
4. Columbia University
5. University of Pennsylvania
5. Stanford University
7. California Institute of Technology
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
9. Dartmouth College
9. Duke University
9. University of Chicago

As you can see, US News uses a system that allows for ties, because it assigns each school a score of 100 or less. They weigh undergraduate academic reputation and graduation rate/freshman retention most heavily, each counting for 20 percent of a college’s score. Next they consider student selectivity, financial resources, if graduation rates are improving, and alumni giving rate. It is little surprise that the US News‘ ranking favors colleges with wealthy alumni commutes.
Many educational experts are against numerical college rankings altogether. “Certainly, the host of intangibles that make up the college experience can’t simply be measured by a series of data points,” says US News by way of disclaimer when explaining their ranking methodology. Professors and college counselors alike feel that these rankings put too much emphasis on the prestige of a school, rather than the overall educational experience and student well-being.
Also Read:
Forbes Ranks the Top U.S. Colleges from the Students’ Perspective
Top 20 Up-and-Coming Universities
Top Green Colleges and Universities in America