Big Data and College Rankings

/, Home/Big Data and College Rankings

Big Data and College Rankings

From the Big Leagues to the Ivy League . . .

The movie Moneyball tells the story of how data analysis changed Big League baseball forever. This year’s best colleges rankings from US News & World Report show similarly evolving priorities in higher education. Like in Moneyball, where Brad Pitt’s character, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane places more faith in the power of statistics to predict future performance than the experienced eyes of baseball scouts, the 2019 college rankings increase the emphasis on outcomes by 5%, while chipping away at the role of expert opinion, decreasing it from 22.5% to 20%.

To complicate matters, in recent years, several colleges admitted errors in data reported to US News Report, which undermines the best college rankings altogether.  However, parents and students rely on this rankings to make decisions.

Trading Places: Number One in Public Universities

The new rankings are cause for celebration in some college admissions offices and head shaking in others. For the first time, UC Berkeley was unseated as the number one public university. Previously tied with UC Berkeley, UCLA has ascended to being the number one among the top public universities, sometimes called the Public Ivys. Princeton University, Harvard University, Columbia University (NY) (tie), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie), The University of Chicago (tie) and Yale University (CT) (tie) still top the Ivys list.

With this new methodology, the emphasis on student outcomes rose from 30% to 35%. Added to the criteria this year, social mobility indicators: graduation rates of students with Pell Grants, and a comparison of those with Pell Grants and those without. Deemphasized: ACT and SAT scores. Completely eliminated from consideration: college acceptance rates. Below is the criteria, with weights for the 2019 rankings.

Student Outcomes: 35%

Graduation and retention rates; social mobility; graduation rate performance.

Faculty Resources: 20%

Class size; student-faculty ratio; proportion of full-time faculty; percent of full-time faculty with the highest degrees in their field; and faculty salary.

Expert Opinion: 20%

The opinions of presidents, provosts and admissions deans. National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges also include high school counselor opinions.

Financial Resources: 10%

The average spending per student on things that go directly toward educating undergrads, such as instruction, research and student services.

Student Excellence: 10%

ACT/SAT scores; proportion of first-year students who were in the top 10% of their high school classes for National Universities and National Liberal Arts Colleges, or in the top 25% for Regional schools.

Alumni Giving: 5%

Percentage of living alumni with bachelor’s degrees who gave to their schools during a given year.


2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges

National Universities – Top 5
1. Princeton University (NJ)
2. Harvard University (MA)
3. Columbia University (NY) (tie)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie)
3. University of Chicago (tie)
3. Yale University (CT) (tie)

National Liberal Arts Colleges – Top 5
1. Williams College (MA)
2. Amherst College (MA)
3. Swarthmore College (PA) (tie)
3. Wellesley College (MA) (tie)
5. Bowdoin College (ME) (tie)
5. Carleton College (MN) (tie)
5. Middlebury College (VT) (tie)
5. Pomona College (CA) (tie)

Top Public Schools

National Universities – Top 5
1. University of California—Los Angeles
2. University of California—Berkeley
3. University of Virginia
4. University of Michigan—Ann Arbor
5. University of California—Santa Barbara (tie)
5. University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill (tie)

National Liberal Arts Colleges – Top 5
1. United States Military Academy (NY)
2. United States Naval Academy (MD)
3. United States Air Force Academy (CO)
4. Virginia Military Institute
5. New College of Florida

Best Value Schools

National Universities – Top 5
1. Princeton University (NJ)
2. Harvard University (MA)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
4. Yale University (CT)
5. Stanford University (CA)

National Liberal Arts Colleges – Top 5
1. Williams College (MA)
2. Pomona College (CA)
3. Amherst College (MA)
4. Swarthmore College (PA)
5. Principia College (IL)


Additional Sources:


By |2018-10-03T04:14:45+00:00September 22nd, 2018|Blog, Home|0 Comments

About the Author:

Free consultation - Professional writer and UCLA Extension marketing instructor. Alumni interviewer for Pomona College admissions. Credentials: MBA from UCLA Anderson, College Counseling Certificate from UCLA Extension, Phi Beta Kappa Pomona College.

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.