A New, Value-Added Approach to College Rankings

Brookings Institute researchers Jonathan Rowell and Siddhartha Kulkarni have just published a compelling report on college rankings: “Beyond College Rankings: A Value-Added Approach to Assessing Two- and Four-Year Schools.

Their approach to college rankings is different and especially useful to students and parents.

The researchers explain:

Drawing on government and private sources, this report analyzes college 'value-added,' the difference between actual alumni outcomes (like salaries) and the outcomes one would expect given a student’s characteristics and the type of institution. Value-added captures the benefits that accrue from aspects of college quality we can measure, such as graduation rates and the market value of the skills a college teaches, as well as aspects we can’t.

The value-added measures introduced here improve on conventional rankings in several ways. They are available for a much larger number of schools; they focus on the factors that best predict measurable economic outcomes; and they attempt to isolate the effect colleges themselves have on those outcomes, above and beyond what students’ backgrounds would predict.

The report contains excellent graphics in addition to valuable information.

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Marsha Familaro Enright