What Factors Are Considered When Ranking Universities in America?


Quick Answer

Different university ranking systems, such as Forbes, U.S. News and World Report, and the Academic Ranking of World Universities, rank colleges using different methodologies, although they all include the success of students after graduation and the quality of faculty. The remaining criteria include research success and student selectivity and satisfaction.

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What Factors Are Considered When Ranking Universities in America?
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Full Answer

The Academic Ranking of World Universities assigns 10 percent of a college's score to how often alumni earn Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals. Another 20 percent comes from the number of staff with those prizes, and 20 percent is for researchers who are highly cited in their fields. A further 40 percent is based on the number of papers published in the prestigious Science and Nature journals, and for papers indexed in the Science Citation Index-Expanded and the Social Science Citation Index. A final 10 percent comes from academic performance.

U.S. News and World Report publishes an annual list of top undergraduate colleges. Here, 22.5 percent of a college's ranking comes from its undergraduate academic reputation, as reported by the deans and administrators of other colleges. Another 22.5 percent comes from the retention and graduation rate of the college. A further 20 percent comes from faculty resources, including student-faculty ratio and faculty pay. Student selectivity determines 12.5 percent, including the average entering SAT and GPA of freshmen. The financial resources, defined as the average amount of money spent per student, account for another 10 percent. The actual graduation rate compared to the predicted graduation rate determines 7.5 percent, and the final 5 percent is based on how many alumni gave money to their schools.

For Forbes' rankings, 25 percent comes from student satisfaction as reported by students. Post-graduate success determines 32.5 percent, and this is measured by the average pay of alumni and how many alumni achieve notable success, such as Nobel Prize winners, members of the 30 Under 30, and CEOs. Graduation rate determines another 7.5 percent, and 10 percent is from how often students earn Ph.Ds or prestigious fellowships. The final 25 percent comes from student debt and loan default rates.

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