City College Of New York, Princeton, And MIT Top A New Ranking Of Colleges’ Economic Value
economic returns that students can expect from attending a given school City College of New York ranks first, followed by Princeton and MIT.getty
A new college ranking methodology ranks the City College of New York (CCNY), the founding campus of the City University of New York system, as the nation’s No. 1 university for the economic value it gives back to its students.
The ranking, which will likely come as a surprise to many higher education observers more accustomed to seeing elite private universities and public research universities at the top of such lists, comes as a result of a revised methodology developed by Degree Choices, a relatively new online college guide. and consulting companies. (As a full disclosure, I serve as a part-time consultant for the company.)
In its newly released 2023 ranking of the best colleges and universities in America. CCNY, Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology topped the list of national universities.
The rest of the top 10 were the University of Florida, Stanford University, Harvard University, Yale University, Florida International University, California Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania.
The top ten successors were the University of California, Berkeley; Georgia Institute of Technology; Rice University; University of Michigan; University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; University of California, Irvine; University of Washington; Missouri University of Science and Technology; Vanderbilt University; and Columbia University.
Degree Choices also ranks colleges and universities in several different categories, including Best Liberal Arts Colleges, Best Colleges by Region, Best Degrees and Graduate Programs, Best HBCUs, and Best Institutions serving Hispanics.
The 2023 ranking included 1,618 four-year institutions and revises a previous list the company released last year, in which Princeton ranked first.
The ranking of degree choices is based on a unique measure of the economic return that students attending various colleges and universities can expect to receive from their educational investment.
Using public cost and revenue data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Degree Choices calculates two metrics that are then mathematically combined into a total economic score of an institution on which the rankings are based.
Payback measures how long it takes the average student to offset the total cost of attending college (after deducting financial aid) with their marginal earnings. Marginal earnings are the difference between what the average student would have likely earned before attending college and what he or she earns afterward. This metric is similar to Third Street’s Earnings Award Premium, whose education director Michael Itzkowitz consulted with Degree Choices for its methodology.
EarningsPlus compares students’ post-college earnings against a benchmark that Degree Choices sets based on two variables that can affect salary comparisons — each school’s program ecology, which reflects the unique mix of academic programs it offers, and in-state/out-of-state composition of the student body.
In the case of CCNY, it takes less than six months for the average student receiving federal financial aid to pay off the total cost of an education there. And ten years after attending CCNY, those students, whether they graduate or not, earn an average of $55,741 per year. These numbers are consistent with CCNY’s reputation as an institution that offers its students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, excellent prospects for significant upward economic mobility.
At Princeton University, students earn an average of $95,689 ten years after attending, and those who receive federal aid take an average of less than a year to pay off their total cost of attendance. These numbers reflect Princeton’s reputation for producing graduates with very strong earning power.
Whether return or profit plus is more important will vary depending on individual circumstances. Payback reveals how quickly the costs of education can be recovered on average, while profit plus conveys relative economic advantages later.
To arrive at what is called an institution’s economic score, the factor on which Degree Choices ranks schools, a school’s return is divided by the advantage/disadvantage percentage of the profit plus factor. The lower the resulting coefficient, the higher the school’s ranking.
One thing is sure. With the Degree Choices methodology, public universities fare much better than in many other college rankings that place a premium on resources and institutional reputation. For example, among national universities, 9 of the top 20 and 31 of the top 50 are public institutions.
“Many of these schools are able to achieve superior economic value while also being more inclusive in terms of the percentage of students who come from lower-income backgrounds,” said David Levy, the architect of the ranking system.
“We believe our focus on the economics of a college education highlights a value often overlooked by existing ranking systems that have, in effect, placed a premium on prestige and wealth. Our rankings offer policymakers something that they’ve been looking for — a new way to measure the tangible economic return that colleges provide to students,” Levy added.
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I am president emeritus of Missouri State University. After earning my BA from Wheaton College (Illinois), I was awarded a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Illinois in 1973. I then joined the faculty at the University of Kentucky, where I advanced to the rank of professor and served as director of the Clinical Psychology Program, chair of the psychology department, dean of the graduate school, and provocateur. In 2005, I was named president of Missouri State University. After retiring from the State of Missouri in 2011, I became a senior policy advisor to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. Recently, I have written two books: Diplomas and Pedigrees: Educating America’s Top Leaders (2017) and Coming to Grips with Higher Education (2018), both published by Rowman & Littlefield.
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