A regular reader sent us (pdf) these details behind this year’s US News rankings. Let’s spend five days discussing them. Today is Day 4.

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Continuing our discussion of the underlying data, I am most suspicious of the Financial Resources information. Recall the methodology:

Generous per-student spending indicates that a college can offer a wide variety of programs and services. U.S. News measures financial resources by using the average spending per student on instruction, research, student services and related educational expenditures in the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Spending on sports, dorms and hospitals doesn’t count.

The problem is two-fold: First, spending on dorms should count! Williams is a better college, at least partly, because our dorms are much nicer, especially the number and quality of our single rooms. A similar argument applies to our spending on sports. Second, lots of spending is suspect:

whale

Nothing wrong with whales, of course. We are in no way Cetacea-phobes at EphBlog! However, the money spent here (which presumably helps Williams ranking) would have been better allocated to matching the financial aid awards from places like Harvard and Stanford.

2) Any thoughts on how much better Williams (93%) does in percentage of high school students in the top 10% of the class compared to colleges like Middlebury (79%) and Wellesley (80%)? This has, for years, been a strange statistic since so many high schools (especially elite prep schools) no longer report class ranks, both to decrease competition (the surface reason) and to make it easier for colleges to accept their students (the real reason). For Williams, the data looks like:

high

How long before US News gets rid of this component of its rankings? Middlebury, for example, no longer (pdf, page 10) reports high school ranks. Is about 80% what schools who don’t report get stuck with? Or does Middlebury report this data secretly to US News but not in its common data set?

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