Friday, August 21, 2009

Initial Comparison of College Rankings

By Jonathan Leirer

The USNWR rankings of America’s Best Colleges were released yesterday. We at CCAP have spent some time digesting these rankings and comparing them to our own college rankings. Direct comparisons are somewhat encumbered due to categorical differences. First, USNWR does not rank all colleges in one list but rather categorizes them into groups; namely National Universities and Liberal Arts Colleges. While there are further rankings and categories, we will, for the time being, restrict our analysis to only these two groups. Second, the Forbes/CCAP rankings include a much broader set of schools. To facilitate meaningful comparisons, we have selected a subset of our schools to match that of the USNWR rankings, and computed relative ranks consistent with our methodology, within that subset.

The figure below plots the relationship between the USNWR rankings of Liberal Arts Colleges and the comparably modified Forbes/CCAP rankings of Liberal Arts Colleges. We can easily observe that there is a large degree of correlation between the two rankings (actual correlation value is p=.71), particularly at the top, although the two become increasingly disparate as you move farther down the rankings. However, even within the top 20 there is significant deviation from the blue 45 degree line (which would correspond to a perfect correlation between the two rankings).

We can generate a similar plot with the National University list, creating the figure below. Compared to the Liberal Arts Colleges, there is a slightly lesser degree of overall correlation between the two rankings (actual correlation is .64 versus .71 for Liberal Arts College). However, what is striking is the high correlation among the highest ranked schools and the low correlation among the lower ranked schools. Some notable exceptions of the high correlation among the highest ranks include University of Pennsylvania, Duke, and Dartmouth (this cluster is circled in red) --all of whom rank very highly in USNWR but do not crack the top 20 in the modified Forbes/CCAP list-- and Boston College, Brandeis University, Tufts and College of William and Mary (this cluster is circled in green), all of whom rank much higher in the Forbes/CCAP rankings then they do in the USNWR.

This is the first in a series of analyses that probe the USNWR ranking, compare and contrast the Forbes/CCAP ranking with the USNWR rankings, and explore the possible implications for Higher Education stemming the two rankings systems.


right-wing prof said...

That's because your bias against Dartmouth is well-known.

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