This week Forbes Magazine released its report on America's best colleges and universities. In the number one spot was Williams College, followed by Princeton University. Rounding out the top ten were Amherst College, the United States Military Academy at West Point, M.I.T., Stanford, Swarthmore, Harvard, Claremont McKenna College, and Yale.
Only one school in Georgia made the top 100. The highest ranking school in Emory University at 53, followed by Wesleyan College at 128. See the chart below for a complete list of Georgia's rankings.
The highest ranking school in Alabama was Troy University, at 237. The highest ranking school in Mississippi was Millsaps College at 135, and the University of Florida ranked the highest in Florida, at 93.
Many colleges that traditionally have ranked much higher in the U.S. News and World Report rankings were not pleased with their low rankings in the Forbes list. The Forbes criteria differs substantially from the criteria used by U.S. News in their rankings, due out the week of August 19. Forbes rankings rely heavily on student evaluations of their professors and their academic experience, starting salaries after graduation, and their debt load. Student awards, such as Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, are weighted more heavily than faculty awards. The U.S. News methodology does not contain student evaluations and instead relies heavily on faculty awards, such as Nobel prizes, and reviews from faculty at other colleges. Consquently, rankings in Forbes and U.S. News are quite different.
Our schools still play an important role
School rankings are interesting, and we should strive to make our schools as good as they can be. However, in today's high-tech, global economy, the important consideration is not whether you went to school number 25 or school number 125. It's whether you went to college at all. College graduates earn more money, are less likely to become unemployed, and are out of work for a shorter length of time if they do get laid off.
Over the last generation, a college degree has become more and more important in terms of salary and employment opportunities. In 1980, the average young college graduate earned just 30% more than a high school graduate. In 2006, that earnings gap had grown to 42% in favor of the college graduates. As workers age, the earnings gap becomes more and more pronounced, with college graduates earning almost double what high school graduates earn over a lifetime.
So we should not be worried that our colleges don't make the top 100 list. We should be more worried about getting our kids to stay in school. Their lifetime earnings depend on it.
Click here to read more about how important education is to your lifetime career.
Georgia College Rankings, August 2010
53, Emory University
128, Wesleyan College
137, Agnes Scott College
150, University of Georgia
163, Berry College
179, Covenant College
242, Georgia Tech
353, Oglethorpe University
356, Spelman College
407, Georgia State University
420, LaGrange College
499, Mercer University
538, Morehouse College
554, Georgia Southern University
570, Kennesaw State University
Source: Forbes Magazine. Total schools ranked = 610.