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College rankings or junk science?

By Robert Kuttner

IT’S APPROACHING that season when students and their parents anxiously await college admissions decisions. But increasingly, an equally feverish process is infecting the other side of the transaction and distorting the process of who gets financial aid.

Colleges these days engage in an ever more frantic competition for ”rankings,” driven almost entirely by the annual U.S. News & World Report issue on ”America’s Best Colleges.” U.S. News is so dominant that when a dean boasts that his school is ranked in the top 10, or a president’s bonus is based on whether his college makes it into the top 50, they invariably refer to U.S. News.

Massive efforts by admission departments, deans, and college presidents are devoted to gaming the U.S. News ranking system, published every August. This includes everything from manipulating who is considered a part-time student (which raises the reported performance of full-time students) to giving students temporary research jobs in order to raise the placement score reported to U.S. News. But the easiest single way to raise rankings is by enrolling students with ever higher SAT scores.

If the average score of your entering freshman class increases, the U.S. News ranking will probably improve, too. And if your ranking goes up, the presumed prestige of the college will follow. More kids will apply, more applicants will choose your college rather than brand X, and, best of all, more families will pay sticker price….

Will admission to one of the elite colleges guarantee a prosperous future — or just a mountain of debt?

Every striver mother and father knows the rules when it comes time to shop for a college. These are so deeply embedded in the subconscious of affluent, highly educated parents that their wisdom is rarely questioned.
If your kid is bright enough, you shoot for the Ivies, Stanford or MIT. If those are out of reach, you aim your child at other prestigious private institutions — Duke, the University of Chicago, Georgetown or some other brand-name, liberal arts college that doesn’t let just anybody in the door. If all else fails, you might consider a top-ranked state university, but only as a last resort.
Money should be no object, not when it comes to something as important as your child’s education. Paying those tuition bills may sabotage your ability to save for retirement or necessitate a second mortgage on your house. But, in the end, your goal should be to send your kid to the most exclusive, impressive option available. The payoff is obvious: In a society that likes to think of itself as a meritocracy, the Ivies and other selective private schools offer a shortcut to the top. They promise an instant pedigree, future wealth and an opportunity to mix with the country’s next generation of movers and shakers.
But what if all those calculations and assumptions are wrong? What if all those Ivy graduates whose parents shelled out $150,000 or even $200,000 for their undergraduate degrees could have done just as well if they’d gone somewhere else? Somewhere much cheaper?
Research implies that is actually the case. According to these recent studies, when you do a cold, hard analysis — removing family dreams and visions of class rings — the Ivies and other elite private schools simply aren’t worth the money. The answer isn’t conclusive, and there are skeptics — at the Ivies and elsewhere. But at the least, the research should give parents pause and prompt them to conduct a cost-benefit analysis before steering their child to an elite private college.

Access to the Most Selective Private Colleges by High-Ability, Low-Income Students:Are they out there?

Gordon C. Winston Catharine B. Hill2Williams College

The growing concern about access to highly selective colleges
and universities was heightened by a soon-to-be-published study
of 28 of the most selective private schools in the US – “the COFHE schools”-
that showed that only 10% of their students come from the bottom 40%
of the US family income distribution (Hill-Winston-Boyd, 2005).
While few might have expected that the students at these demanding
schools would have been drawn equally from across national family
incomes, the 10%/40% ratio surely demands a better understanding.
Read the Report in pdf format.


I will like to point out a useful web site which shows the commitment of the institutions to Web publication and to the worldwide inititive favouring Open Access to knowledge.
In the words of Webometrics ‘The aim of this project is not to rank the institutions according to quality of the education provided nor their academic prestige, so it should not be used for comparing them or as a guide for choosing university by candidate students.’

Universities ranked by Webometrics are:

Rankings of USA Universities


1. Stanford university

2. Massachusetts Inst of Technology

3. U of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

4. University of California Berkeley

5. California Institute Technology

6. University of Michigan

7. Cornell University

8. Purdue University

9. Princeton University

10. University of Southern California

11. Univ of California Los Angeles

12. Carnegie Mellon University

13. Georgia Institute of Technology

14. University of Texas at Austin

15. Columbia University

16. University of Wisconsin-Madison

17. University of Maryland College Park

18. University of Minnesota

19. Univ of California Santa Barbara

20. Univ of California-San Diego

21. North Carolina State University

22. Ohio State University

23. Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst

24. Polytechnic University

25. University of Washington

26. Rice University

27. Virginia Polytech Inst & State U

28. Pennsylvania State University

29. U of Massachusetts at Amherst

30. Yale University

31. University of Florida

32. Texas A&M University

33. University of California-Davis

34. Johns Hopkins University

35. Brown University

36. Arizona State University

37. Washington University

38. University of Colorado

39. Northwestern University

40. University of Arizona

41. University of Pennsylvania

42. Case_Western_Reserve_Univ

43. University_of_Utah

44. Michigan_State_University

45. University_of_Notre_Dame

46. University_of_Rochester

47. University_of_California-Irvine

48. Drexel_University

49. Syracuse_University

50. Rutgers_State_Univ-New_Brunswick

51. CUNY_-_Grad_Sch_&_Univ_Center

52. Iowa_State_University

53. University_of_Iowa

54. Duke_University

55. University_of_Virginia

56. Northeastern_University

57. University_of_Rhode_Island

58. State_U_of_New_York-Stony_Brook

59. Auburn_University

60. State_Univ_of_New_York-Buffalo

61. Colorado_State_University

62. Oregon_State_University

63. University_of_Texas_at_Arlington

64. University_of_Pittsburgh

65. University_of_Illinois_at_Chicago

66. University_of_Tennessee-Knoxville

67. Lehigh_University

68. Naval_Postgraduate_School

69. Texas_Tech_University

70. George_Washington_University

71. Vanderbilt_University

72. University_of_Kansas

73. Clemson_University

74. Clarkson_University

75. New_Mexico_State_University

76. Southern_Methodist_University

77. University_of_Central_Florida

78. University_of_Delaware

79. University_of_Connecticut

80. Washington_State_University

81. University_of_Missouri-Rolla

82. Boston_University

83. University_of_Missouri-Columbia

84. Illinois_Institute_of_Technology

85. Ohio_University

86. Air_Force_Inst_of_Technology

87. University_of_Cincinnati

88. West_Virginia_University

89. Wayne_State_University

90. University_of_Houston

91. Worcester_Polytechnic_Inst

92. Brigham_Young_University

93. Stevens_Inst_of_Technology

94. University_of_Oklahoma

95. University_of_Alabama-Huntsville

96. University_of_Wisconsin-Milwaukee

97. University_of_Kentucky

98. Univ_of_Southwestern_Louisiana

99. University_of_Miami

100. Louisiana_State_U_&_A&M_College

101. University_of_South_Florida

102. Mississippi_State_University

103. New_Jersey_Inst_of_Technology

104. Oklahoma_State_University

105. University_of_Alabama

106. University_of_South_Carolina

107. Kansas_State_University

108. Florida_Institute_of_Technology

109. Univ_of_Arkansas-Fayetteville

110. University_of_Toledo

111. University_of_Dayton

112. Howard_University

113. Old_Dominion_University

114. University_of_Akron

115. Oregon_Graduate_Inst_Sci_&_Tech

116. University_of_Wyoming

117. University_of_New_Hampshire

118. Florida_Atlantic_University

119. Wichita_State_University

120. Portland_State_University

121. State_Univ_of_New_York-Binghamton

122. University_of_Mass-Lowell

123. University_of_Vermont

124. University_of_Idaho

125. Tennessee_Technological_Univ

126. Tulane_University

World- Top Universities

According to Times Education Supplement,London

20 Top Universities are:

Harvard University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge University
Oxford University
Stanford University
University of California, Berkeley
Yale University
California Institute of Technology
Princeton University
Ecole Polytechnique
Duke University
London School of Economics
Imperial College London
Cornell University
Beijing University
Tokyo University
University of California, San Francisco
University of Chicago
Melbourne University
Columbia University

This list comprises of 200 Top universities of the world.

Go Here for the complete list and more tables like:

The World’s top 200 universities

The world’s top 100 science universities
The world’s top 100 technology universities
Top non-university institutions in science
Top non-university institutions in technology

The world’s top arts and humanities universities
The world’s top social science universities
The world’s top non-universities in social science

Top 100 biomedicine universities
Top non-university institutions in biomedicine

Geographical excellence

Top 50 European universities

Top 50 North American universities

Top 50 universities in the rest of the world

Top 20 Universities in the World


According to Times Education Supplement,London:

Harvard University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge University
Oxford University
Stanford University
University of California, Berkeley
Yale University
California Institute of Technology
Princeton University
Ecole Polytechnique
Duke University
London School of Economics
Imperial College London
Cornell University
Beijing University
Tokyo University
University of California, San Francisco
University of Chicago
Melbourne University
Columbia University

This list comprises of 200 Top universities of the world.