By Richard Vedder
Many people complain, correctly, that popular college rankings, especially that of US News & World Report (USNWR) are largely based on inputs into the process of producing educational services, not actual educational outcomes. The Spellings Commissions and others have called for "value added" measures of learning and indicators of student outcomes. The colleges, for the most part, are resisting. The solution: devising an externally generated measure of outcomes. Two variables that would work perfectly: data on the Social Security earnings history of recent (last 10-15 years) graduates, and indicators of distinction among graduates as measured by entries in Who's Who in America. We at CCAP do not have the ability to get the Social Security earnings history, but we can get Who's Who entries.
We have taken an unbiased sample of 5,207 entries from the 2008 edition of Who's Who. We will be discussing these results in a series of blogs and probably at least one report. This is the first of those findings. They are a consequent of many hours of laborious digging by my beloved Whiz Kids --especially Jim Coleman, Jonathan Robe, and Thomas Ruchti (with moral support from Senior Whiz Kid Matt Denhart).
The broadest statistic:
54.23% of entrants had undergraduate degrees from one of the top ranked USNWR national universities or liberal arts colleges --a listing of well over 200 schools.
38.49% have undergraduate degrees from unranked (in the top tier) universities and colleges.
7.28% have no undergraduate degree.
In short, graduation from a top tier school helps your chances of becoming vocationally successful, but almost as many such persons are NOT graduates of such schools.
57 schools had 15 or more entries in Who's Who among our sample. They are, in order:
3.U. of California, Berkeley -82
4.U. of Michigan, Stanford U.-59
6. U. of Pennsylvania, Princeton U. - 58
8. Columbia U. -55
9. Cornell U. -54
10. U. of Illinois, Urbana -53
11. U. of Texas, Austin; U. of Wisconsin, Madison -51
13. Dartmouth College -43
14. UCLA, U. of Minnesota -39
16. Northwestern - 38
17. New York University -37
18. U. of Notre Dame - 34
19. Duke U. -32
20. M.I.T., Michigan State - 31
22. Brown University - 30
23. Ohio State, Syracuse -29
25. U. of Virginia, U. of Maryland -28
27. U. of Chicago - 27
28. Williams College, Penn State, U. of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Purdue U.-26
32. U. of Florida, U. of Washington -25
34. Georgetown U. -24
35. Indiana U., Boston, U. George Washington U. -23
38. U. of Iowa, U. of Kansas -22
40. Johns Hopkins, U.S. Naval Academy -21
42. Oberlin College -20
43. Miami of Ohio -19
44. U. of Colorado, SUNY Buffalo, U. of Rochester, Fordham U. Amherst College -18
49. U. of Missouri, Columbia, Rutgers U. -17
51. Rensselaer Poly, Washington U. in Saint Louis, U. of Oklahoma, Texas A&M -16
55. Ohio University, U. of Tennessee, Washington and Lee -15
Based on this extensive (about 6 percent of all entries) sample, there are a few big deviations from expectations based on the USNWR lists (national universities and liberal arts colleges). Among the universities, for example, Notre Dame, Michigan and Illinois are seriously under ranked relative to Duke, the U. of Chicago, or Washington U. in St. Louis. Among liberal arts colleges, Oberlin is seriously under ranked relative to Amherst. More about this issue in future blogs.
While all eight Ivy League schools ranked in the top 25, the Big Ten conference did well too, getting six schools in that elite group It is interesting to note, for example, that Michigan State has a larger number than, say, Johns Hopkins. Of the top 25 schools 15 were private --but 10 publics made the list.
To be sure, there are problems with the index, the sample is less than 100 percent, and, most important we have not taken account of enrollment differences between schools. We will address that last point soon in a future blog.