Last year, President Obama announced a plan for a new way to rank colleges. He called on the nation to evaluate schools based on things like graduation rates, tuition, and the percentage of students who receive federal Pell Grants.
TIME Magazine has taken on that challenge by crunching the data for 2,500 colleges and universities and ranking them according to the proposed metrics. According to their results, the top university in the entire country is right here in southern California.
TIME's Hayley Edwards joins the show to tell us which campuses made the grade and why.
TIME's Top 10
- UC Riverside
- UC San Diego
- CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College
- UC Irvine
- CUNY Brooklyn College
- UC Davis
- Christian Brothers University
- CUNY Queens College
- William Carey University
- California State University, Long Beach
What was President Obama calling for with these new metrics and why are they necessary?
"The White House is responding to the unsustainableness (sic) of the status quo. You have the cost of college skyrocketing, you have students returning to school, the economy is bad, people need an education, they're taking on more and more debt, they're defaulting at very high rates and there's just not enough information to know which school I should be going to that's actually going to help me get a good job."
So what was he calling on to emphasize more in terms of ranking colleges?
"The White House announced this proposal last fall, and they actually haven't said exactly what metrics they're going to use. They said they're going to focus on affordability, accessibility, things that help the nation as a whole, but a lot of people have said that that will probably focus on things like graduation rate, measuring the success of students post college, measuring the number of low income students who enroll at a college and a shorthand for that is looking at the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at a college. Although, all of this data is imperfect in different ways."
What happened once you crunched the numbers?
"My colleague, Chris Wilson, he's the interactive graphics editor at Time.com, he's brilliant. In a couple days, he took all of the data off of the IPEDS website — which is the giant database of all the federal information about college and universities — and created this really fun little tool that looks at these three different measures:
- Graduation rate: The number of students who actually get out of there with a degree in 6 years or less.
- Percentage of Pell Grant recipients: This is shorthand for students whose families make less than around $50,000 a year, around there.
- Affordability: Total net cost of that university.
If you rank all three of those with equal weight, then at the top of the list is UC Riverside."
Are you surprised that UC Riverside topped the list?
"I used to work at the Washington Monthly, which does a very similar ranking, and they look at colleges that give you the best bang for the buck, and Riverside has topped that list before, so it didn't completely blindside me."
How does this effect our perception about what makes a good school?
"I think that one of the interesting things about this tool and what Obama is trying to do, which is to shake up the way that we think a good school is. Other college ranking systems, like U.S. News and World Report and Forbes and Playboy and all of these different magazines all use different metrics to rate and rank universities.
"The White House's point is it wants to take metrics that actually serve a social good, a greater public good, like accessibility, and reward colleges for letting in more low-income students and helping them to graduate. This is also one of the major criticisms of it, is that people say people don't choose schools based on how many low income students there are there, they choose them because of their dance programs or because of an academic program that they really like."