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Your Take: College Rankings

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Carnegie Mellon FlagBill Gates made a little bit of news last week when he said that the metric rating system for U.S. colleges was “perverse.” The gist of his argument was that rating systems gave more credit to schools that attracted the best students rather than for improving them the most. His words: “The control metric shouldn’t be that kids aren’t so qualified. It should be whether colleges are doing their job to teach them. I bet there are community colleges and other colleges that do a good job in that area, but US News & World Report rankings pushes you away from that.”

Personally, I never cared much for college rankings. They’re nice to have around but the top rankings are always to the same schools. US News is the most well known and you see the same colleges at the top… most are Ivy League schools with enormous endowments. This year’s ranking is no different. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and University of Chicago make the top five. MIT, Stanford, Duke, UPenn, and CalTech make up the next five. Last year had Harvard and Princeton tied for first, then Yale, Columbia, CalTech and MIT and Stanford tied for 5th, Duke, University of Chicago, and then UPenn. Shuffle around the deck chairs, same exact schools moving around.

My alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, comes in at #23. The value in these rankings isn’t the ranking but all the data that they provide. For example, you can see that 12% of males were in a fraternity while 13% of women. It’s also 58% men to 42% women. I can assure you that the Computer Science department does not have similar ratios… though I hear it’s getting more balanced, that’s a good thing! :)

What do you think about college rankings?

(Photo: duruk)

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12 Responses to “Your Take: College Rankings”

  1. based on my experience before hs diploma, every one is equally a flunk out of high school, until proven otherwise, entitlements in america for pay checks, business licenses, all of the riches cnbc, fobres highlight, are based on entitlements those people have been granted, if intelligence, education, do not bring such american entitlements, then what? motivation based on such money numbers of billionaires, and then real experience, fraud with college and college act sat gmat scores, rankings are indeed an indicator, and no not 100% anything, as I went to Purdue to get my MS at Krannert in 1983, based largely to published rankings, and my real experience, before hs diploma, during my BS in Mechanical Engineering at Ok. St. theory vs reality, $,$$$,$$$,$$$ bottom line, to my motivation 10 $ signs for 10 $ figures/yr in america, individual pay checks at hedge funds for many years now, as published, oh yea, don’t believe every thing published

  2. Long says:

    College rankings have always been around for those who care more about names and status than the education provided. I went to a state university for my bachelors degree. Even though I play down the education I received, I learned quite a bit from experienced professors in the field of Finance.

    I graduated with a 4.0. If I were to compete for a job with a below average student from one of the high ranking schools, I bet that person would land the job. So yeah, rankings are overrated and do nothing to give any real indication of competence to the students that graduate from the school.

    With that, I guess it’s a good dream list for those wishing to attend a school with a prestigious name.

  3. Bryan says:

    The main advantage of a Ivy league school is who you network with. Is the education better? Maybe, but knowing someone who knows someone is a huge advantage when transitioning into the work place. Is it worth the price? I’m not sure, but I would like to see the data on it. :)

    • Scott says:

      We have a family friend who was very high up in a major international corporation. He really wanted to be CEO but was told that it was very unlikely to happen because his “pedigree” did not fit – he had his MBA from a state school, not an Ivy League school. So “is it worth it?” all depends on what you want to do in life.

  4. freeby50 says:

    I think Gates is right that the rankings aren’t necessarily a good reflection of the quality of teaching.

    But I think the rankings are still relatively useful. They do a good job of differentiating the best schools from the mediocre ones. The best schools have very smart student bodies, great reputations and lots of resources. In general I think you’re’ going to bet a better education at such a school with high metrics in those categories than in a school with below average students, poor reputation and poor resources. Overall the quality of education is better at the higher ranked schools.

    So no, I don’t think you’ll get a better education at a community college then at Harvard.

  5. daenyll says:

    I considered in the choice of my college not the schools’ ranking but the ranking of programs I was interested in studying. It’s a little less a popularity contest and more about academic strengths.

  6. College rankings are way overrated and doesn’t address the fact that what you get out of an education primarily relies on what you put into it. What about the successful individuals without a college degree in the first place?

    • I can definitely state that the Ivies mean little to nothing here in the Midwest. The focus is on the large state institutions. The idea that an Ivy League education can open the “right doors” for you seems to be an East Coast phenomenon.

  7. admiral58 says:

    There should always be college rankings, but I do think that many students should look at what companies recruit from each school. Students should try to forecast what they want to do and where the best opportunity is for that.

  8. Dan Hannum says:

    Go Tartans! I’m also a graduate of CMU CS, and I agree about the male-female ratio :) When did you graduate? I graduated in 2002.

    • Jim says:

      We were in the same class, I graduated a semester early in December 2011. I stuck around and did the MSIT-SE program since the job situation (as you probably remember) was pretty abysmal then.

  9. Anne says:

    Honestly, the degrees are only a ticket-punch for your career. As commenter Scott noted, if you intend on the high-flying career, you may need the big name credentials. But there are too many examples outside of this box, so it’s not really a rule, predictor, or requirement. For years I counseled the next generation to do it the cheaper way I did to get the value: a cheap state school undergrad that you can pay as you go by working on the side, then the big name ranking postgrad degree. Perhaps similar to the author, my means were Pitt CS, then CMU GSIA (as it was called at the time and now thankfully considered the real MBA that it is).


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