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January 1, 2020

Which is the Best College Ranking Service?


As stated last month, there are a plethora of college ranking services, with US News being the most popular. Others include Forbes, NICHE, Times Higher Education, and Princeton Review. You’ll not only find listings for the best colleges, but rankings for the best medical schools, law schools, graduate programs, academic departments, global universities and more. So…. Which is the best? Well…. The question is flawed. That is like asking which sports car is the best? Or what is the best city to live in. The honest answer is, it depends. In the end, it is all about the best fit for the student based on myriad of factors unique to that student alone. In this blog, I feature Forbes, which is neither better nor worst, just different from the other services.

Forbes strives to deliver a list with top academics, best experiences, career success and the lowest debt.

Key Points

Forbes lists the following as America’s Top Colleges:

1. Harvard University

2. Stanford University

3. Yale University

4. MIT

5. Princeton University

6. University of Pennsylvania

7. Brown University

8. Cal Tech

9. Duke

Big Picture

Forbes uses the following criteria for determining their rankings. Are they better than US News? That is a matter of debate.

  • Alumni Salary PayScale
    • What is the average salary of graduates? This certainly seems like a worthwhile metric to track.
  • Student Debt
    • Average federal student loan debt per borrower
    • federal student loan default rates
    • I would concur that graduating with a degrees and incurring the least amount of debt is a plus. The worst case scenario would be attending one or more years of college, incurring debt and never graduating.
  • Student Satisfaction
    • Freshmen Retention most recent 3 years
    • Forbes obtains data from students and alumni to determine whether their college experience at their institution was worthwhile. Sounds good!
  • American Leaders List
    • Forbes 400 – ‘America’s Richest Americans’
    • Richest Self-Made Women List
    • Most Powerful Women List
    • 30 and Under
    • Leaders in Public Service
      • Supreme Court Justices, President, Cabinet members, US Congress, Governors
    • Awards
      • MacArthur Fellowships, Nobel Prize, Academy Awards, NAACP Awards, Guggenheim Fellowship, Major Sports All-Stars, Oscars, Presidential Medals, Pulitzer Prizes
    • Academic Success
      • Fulbright, Rhodes Scholarships
    • 4-year Graduation Rate

The Forbes list is certainly unique, and worthy of consideration. But, don’t forget to keep in mind that while these rankings may be a fine starting place, a better list of metrics are features preferred by the student. Prestige is but one criteria to select when creating a college list.