Harvard, MIT, CU Denver named best colleges in new ranking

Report measures value of higher ed three ways

A new report by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce aims to do what a lot of other recent rankings and reports have also aimed to do: measure the economic value of going to college.

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However, the Georgetown Center report looks a little different. It actually includes three rankings: one based on earnings alone, one that adjusts for majors or programs, and one that adjusts for differences in academic preparation and likelihood that students earned a graduate degree.

To create the report, researchers used Department of Education College Scorecard data to analyze the earnings of graduates 10 years after they initially entered college. For the second list, researchers used a regression analysis to predict student earnings based on major and ranked institutions more highly if their students earned higher salaries than predicted based on that analysis. For the third list, researchers looked at median ACT scores and percentage of graduate and professional degrees in each student's zip code to adjust for academic preparation and likelihood of earning a secondary degree.

The top institutions in the first list, based purely on earnings, are:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. United States Merchant Marine Academy
  3. Harvard University
  4. Georgetown University
  5. Stevens Institute of Technology
  6. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  7. California Maritime Academy
  8. Stanford University
  9. Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  10. Harvey Mudd College

The top institutions where graduates earn more than predicted based on their choice of majors are:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Georgetown University
  3. University of Colorado Denver
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  5. Stanford University
  6. Bentley University
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. Duke University
  9. Washington and Lee University
  10. University of the Pacific

The top institutions where graduates earn more than predicted based on academic preparation and likelihood of earning a graduate degree are:

  1. University of Colorado Denver
  2. Georgetown University
  3. University of the Pacific
  4. Harvard University
  5. Washington and Lee University
  6. Stanford University
  7. California State University-Bakersfield
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  9. Duke University
  10. University of Pennsylvania

"When you go to college, 30 percent of your courses is your major and the rest is general education, so in the case of MIT, it's the majors that drive the earnings. In the case of Harvey Mudd or the Merchant Marine Academy, it's the occupation," Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center, told the Washington Post.

"It looks like the optimal case for earnings is to combine general education with occupational education," he added (Douglas-Gabriel, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 12/7; Nelson, Vox, 12/8).

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