Once again, Forbes has released their list of America’s Best Colleges. For those of you who have been following me for some time, you know I am not a fan of college rankings in general and really not a fan of Forbes rankings. But, there is a small bright side to this years rankings.
First, the bad. Forbes continues to use student evaluations from RateMyProfessor.com. In fact, this is the single largest factor in the ratings at 17.5% of the total ratings. For those of you not familiar with RateMyProfessor, it is a website where anyone, and I mean anyone, can go online and rate a professor at any college. You do not have to be a student in that professor’s class to rate him/her. You don’t even need to be a student at the college where they teach. Hate a particular professor? Help Grandma to go online to give a bad rating to this professor.
The second largest criteria used in the rankings at 15% are the salaries of alumni. Apparently the only reason to go to college in this country is to make as much money as possible. Since Forbes is a business magazine I assume this is why they have this factor as part of the ratings. Personally, I think ethical behavior is more important than just earning as much as possible.
Finally, 10% of the rating is based on a listing of Who’s Who in America. I have commented on this in the past but let’s just say that I agree with Forbes prior statements that this is a ridiculous listing since anyone who wants to can seem to get into Who’s Who.
Now, all of that being said, I did notice that Forbes has attempted to improve their rankings this year by giving less weight to these ridiculous factors and more weight to some that actually make some sense. Four year graduation rate? Yup, that is important. Debt load of typical graduate. Yup, that too is an important factor.
While the debt load of a college’s graduate is an important number, the numbers provided by Forbes are totally inconsistent with any numbers I have seen before from the colleges themselves. I looked through the top 25 colleges on the list and they were all under $5,000 debt for graduates. In reality, almost every one of those schools have an average debt of more than $5,000 after 4 years of college. Now, they may be saying that the debt they list is for each year but if that is the case, the listing is confusing at best.
Finally, I do want to give Forbes some credit. If you look at any particular college, Forbes has compiled in a handy format a number of important factors regarding the colleges on the list. This is broken down into academic data, tuition data, financial aid data, admissions data and athletic data. This information is also available in other places but this is one of the best for a single location.
Ignore the rankings themselves. But, Forbes has finally produced in a single location information on each college that can be helpful to a student trying to find, and pay for, the best college for their needs.