College Rankings Are What They Are: College Rankings
The fall semester or quarter is upon us at colleges across the country. So is college rankings season. College-bound students and their families want to know which colleges are hot and which might not be. I want to leave you with an important piece of advice. College rankings are what they are: college rankings. They are whatever you want to rank. The best school is whatever school tops your ranking based on whatever your rank.
Suppose I wanted to make a ranking of the best large universities that balance football with academics. In order to make this ranking, we would need to know:
- Freshman retention rates for each school
- Four-year graduation rates for each school
- Graduation rates for the football players vs. the other students, athletes or not who entered college with them
- Attendance for home football games vs. the capacity of the stadium
I did not include the record of the football team. It was more important to know about fan loyalty to the program, regardless of how well the team is playing. Prior to hiring Urban Meyer as head coach Ohio State nearly filled a 100,000-seat stadium for every home game, although the team went 6-7, losing their bowl game. So did Penn State during the 2012 season, even while playing under rigid NCAA sanctions.
I have some idea of how the top ten for a football-based ranking would look.
- Notre Dame
- University of Southern California
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
- Penn State-University Park
- The Ohio State University
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- University of Florida
- University of Georgia
- Texas A&M University
These are all schools where the football team has consistently won over the last ten years and has a very large fan base, not limited to those who sit in the large capacity football stadium. They all retain more than 90 percent of their freshman class, and graduate at least half of a class within four years. But this ranking, even if each factor was given equal weight, favors schools with larger football stadiums as well as success on the field. Stanford and Duke, two “academic” schools, do not appear on this list because of attendance at the games. Their fans will not turn out, win or lose, rain or shine, the way that fans of these other teams will.
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