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or years,

U.S. News

& World Report


annual college rank-

ings monopolized

the attention of col-

lege applicants and

students, and their

parents. Over the past

decade or so, a number of competitors

have cropped up, offering a variety of

rankings and different ways to compare

schools. Now

Forbes, Kiplinger, Money,


(formerly College Prowler) and

Princeton Review are all in the rankings

business, too.

This year, the

Wall Street Journal

joined the fray, linking up with Times

Higher Education, a unit of the London

company TES Global Ltd., to issue the

inaugural WSJ/THE ranking of U.S. col-

leges in September.

WSJ/THE advertises its depar-

ture from the traditional emphasis on

“inputs”—average SAT scores or how

many applicants are rejected—in favor of

a greater focus on students’ postgraduate

success and their own opinions about the

quality of their education.

The WSJ/THE rankings are based on

15 factors across four categories: student

What’s Up with

All Those Rankings?

There are more ways than ever to compare schools.


outcomes (40 percent), as defined pri-

marily by salaries; the school’s resources

(30 percent); how well the school engages

students (20 percent); and diversity (10


Among other things, the WSJ/THE

rankings incorporate results from a

survey of 100,000 college students about

their college experience.

The top spot went to Stanford Univer-



also ranked Stanford No. 1,

with Williams College ranked No. 2.

Addressing Adult Learners

In another new development this year,

Washington Monthly

, the most promi-

nent “alternative” ranking group, intro-

duced what it describes as the nation’s

first-ever ranking of the best colleges for

adult learners—based on ease of transfer,

flexibility of programs and services for

adult students.

Though nearly half of all college

students today are adults, no national

publication has ranked schools for them.

The new ranking of best two-year and

four-year colleges for adult learners joins

Washington Monthly

’s “Best Bang for the

Buck” rankings (added in 2012).

Since it debuted “College Rankings:

What Can Colleges Do for the Country?”

in 2005,

Washington Monthly

has been

driving the push to collect, explore and

raise the weight of “outcomes” data in

college rankings.


’s annual rankings, as well as the

in-depth journalism on education in the

United States that accompanies each

College Guide, are based not on what col-

leges do for themselves but on what they

do for the country in terms of promoting

social mobility, research and service.

This year,


’s College Guide ben-

efits from the Obama administration’s

release of new outcomes information for

all colleges and universities in the coun-

try—such practical data as how much

students earn 10 years after enrolling at a

given college, and how likely they are to

be paying down the principal on educa-

tional loans.

The Spread of Rankings

In the meantime, the rankings world

has spread out horizontally, not just to

global rankings (produced by both

U.S. News & World Report

and THE),

but to rankings for just about everything.

Maybe you are into hiking. You have

only to consult “The 20 Best Colleges for