The 2012 college rankings by Forbes are out. The top five are Princeton (1), Williams (2), Stanford (3), University of Chicago (4), and Yale (5). I am particularly pleased to see my alma mater — University of Chicago — again recognized in the top schools. Chicago was tied for fifth in the alternative U.S. News and World Report rankings. Rounding out the top ten are Harvard (6), West Point (7), Columbia (8), Pomona (9), and Swarthmore (10).
The ranking done for Forbes by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity is based on the quality of teaching, great career prospects, high graduation rates and low levels of debt.
Cornell (#51) fares badly as does the University of Virginia (#36). George Washington (#88) also fares badly.
The results reflect the failure to consider the schools reputations. Instead, the ranking is based on “five general categories: post graduate success (32.5%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence, student satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates, debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates, four-year graduation rate (11.25%) and competitive awards (11.25%), which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Fulbright or go on to earn a Ph.D.”
I visited University of Chicago today after a long hiatus. The campus has changed a great deal since I attended as an undergraduate, but I was able to show the kids my old haunts and favorite spots. I still hold a great attachment to the campus. Forbes asks whether the high price is worth schools like Chicago. For my part (even with four kids), the answer is unquestionably yes. While Chicago attracts a particular brand of geeks (it is still known as “the place where fun goes to die”), it has been the place of intellectual awakening for thousands of young people — myself included.