WSJ College Rankings

The Wednesday edition of the Wall Street Journal contains, behind the paywall, their annual rankings of “nearly 800 U.S. colleges and universities.”

The Top Ten are Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale, Duke, Brown, CalTech, and Princeton, with Johns Hopkins and Northwestern tied for tenth.

The top Virginia schools are:


The WSJ explains their methodology:

Rankings are based on 15 key indicators that assess colleges in four areas: Outcomes, Resources, Engagement and Environment. Outcomes accounts for 40% of the weighting and measures things like the salary graduates earn and the debt burden they accrue. Resources, with a 30% weighting, is mainly a proxy for the spending schools put into instruction and student services. Engagement, drawn mostly from a student survey and with a 20% weight, examines views on things like teaching and interactions with faculty and other students. Environment, at 10%, assesses the diversity of the university community.

The Web version of the article has a helpful tool that lets us look into the rankings of Virginia’s schools.


They don’t list Virginia State.

One major reason for attending college, of course, is that college graduates make more money. (“Most 4-year schools deliver a 15 percent return on investment – double that of the stock market.”)

Plotting the ranking v. outcome data for the thirteen Virginia schools ranked above 400, we see:


The three “400” outcomes there are “>400” in the data, i.e., all three would be somewhere off the left side of the graph if the rankings broke out the >400 group.

The dashed line denotes ranking = outcome. Schools above that line received rankings better than their outcomes; schools below, rankings lower.  For example, THE University is in the higher outcome group with a 30th place outcome but 55th rank.

JMU is the outlier here with an outcome of 106 but a ranking of only 286. No telling how far HSC, VCU, and EMU lie from the line.

Mary Washington is interesting but does not show on the graph: Ranking is somewhere in the 500’s but outcome = 325.

Turning to ranking v. cost, we see, again for the top thirteen:


Finally, outcome v. cost (again with the three >400 outcome entries plotted at 400 but actually ranked lower, perhaps much lower, than 400).