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FORBES Flunks College Ratings Game

By Jackie Burrell
Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 9:37 am in College Apps & Angst.

Muhlenberg College Tour (Photo by Max Orenstein, MCT Direct) We’ve always had issues with the US News and World Report’s college rankings. We don’t agree with its criteria and we blame its use of easily manipulated “exclusivity” ratios for fueling today’s insanely competitive admissions climate. Now, we’ve got a new focus for our college rankings wrath: Forbes Magazine.

Seems Forbes wanted a piece of that US New and World Report sizzle, so they’ve issued a list of their own, “based on the quality of the education (colleges) provide, and how much their students achieve.” Yeah, right. Guess what they used for their uber-scientific methodology? Some 25 percent of the score was based on commentary. Now, we’re as big a fan of RateMyProf as anybody. We find the student critiques as helpful as TripAdvisor’s hotel reviews – it’s always useful to get input from people who’ve actually experienced something, whether it’s a swanky suite or a tedious lecture. But you take TripAdvisor’s reviews with a grain of salt, right? They’re subjective – one person’s “5” rating is another’s “3,” you can “vote” over and over and over, there are no controls over who is posting, and they skew toward extremes. Plus, RateMyProfessors lets you rate an instructor’s hotness too.

Another 25 percent of the Forbes score hails from another odd statistic:

How many alums land in “Who’s Who“? Now there’s data that should matter to … well, not us, certainly. We look to colleges to educate our children and help them find their paths in life. We don’t actually care how many captains of industry a school produces. A more helpful statistic might have been how many alums had been convicted of insider trading, white collar crime or, say, using the company pension fund as their own private piggy banks … or how many had been charged with date rape …

So what’s the other 50%? It’s equally divided between four-year graduation rates (good), student loan debt at graduation (but the top ranked college are all pricey, so perhaps Forbes considers debt a good thing) and the percentage of students and faculty who received Nobels or Rhodes scholarships.

The results? Distinctly odd, but we guessed that. And here’s Forbes’ comment: “Some schools–the University of Pennsylvania (61st), Georgetown (76th), Cornell (121st) and Dartmouth (127th)–may be living a bit off of their reputations.” Hmm, we might say the same about Forbes.

Click “comments” and tell us what you think – about Forbes, Dartmouth (and other colleges) and what criteria you consider important when it comes to your own college rankings.

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2 Responses to “FORBES Flunks College Ratings Game”

  1. Luke Says:


    Thanks for taking notice of the new Forbes ranking system. Before you “flunk” it, though, I’d like to address some inaccuracies in your article.

    First, the scholarly studies that have been performed regarding have demonstrated that the website has a very strong correlation to in-class, university administered course evaluations. As a student myself, I have always found them accurate, helpful and by no means “extreme.”

    Second, Who’s Who in America tracks much more than just “captains of industry.” The publication notes researchers, political leaders, and professionals in all fields of human endeavor. If a university is not producing any students at all that will some day make it to the top of their field, this is certainly a reflection on the university’s ability to educate your children and help them find their paths.

    Finally, the rankings take many nationally competitive awards into account for both faculty and students in addition to just the Nobel Prize and the Rhodes Scholarship. You can visit for a complete list of these awards and a complete explanation of the full methodology.

    The Forbes ranking looks most heavily at two factors that should be of great importance to parents and their students: whether students at a college are satisfied with their professors and the likelihood of post-graduate success in their field. While the Forbes rankings may not be a gold-standard, I hope that parents will take them into consideration when searching for the right college for their children.


    Luke Myers
    The Center for College Affordability and Productivity

  2. Jennell Spletzer Says:

    Alot of bloggers are not very happy with the new iPad.There was too much hoopla over it and lots of blogers got turned off.Quite frankly, I actually see great deal of the cool potential of the gadget. Third-party applications for working with music, games, papers and magazine and books, all sorts of cool stuff, but they just didn’t really sell it properly (aside from the books). It feels kind of incomplete

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