Gallup's college certification plan may upend traditional rankings

Organization plans to run the system like LEED

Gallup's decision to enter the college ratings market marks the end of U.S. News & World Report's domination, Jeffrey Selingo writes in a blog post for Washington Post.

As tuition prices increase and state funding drops, colleges are forced to prove their worth to potential students and lawmakers in terms of ROI, something they haven't had to do much before. Along with this change comes a shift in how students decide where to enroll.

"Only by measuring what truly matters in a college—the actual outcome of a degree—rather than how many valedictorians a college recruits for its freshman class, will parents and students be better able to value the return of their investment of going to a specific college," Selingo writes.

An annual survey of first-years found that only 18% reported magazine rankings as an important factor in their college choice.

Meanwhile, more and more rankings that focus on post-graduation success are popping up, such as those from Money, The Economist, and LinkedIn.

Now Gallup joins that group as well.

The organization announced it will certify higher education institutions based on the "well-being" of graduates.

According to the Gallup-Purdue Index, more than one in six graduates aren't thriving in any "well-being" dimensions. And just 11% are thriving in all five: social, financial, sense of purpose, community engagement, and physical health.

Gallup: The 'big six' experiences that turn successful students into successful employees

The organization compares its own methods to the way that buildings earn LEED certification, which indicates that they use sustainable architecture. Universities that choose to undergo the process may wait up to three years to find out whether or not they earned a certification. 

George Mason University (GMU) already signed up. The institution includes a focus on well-being in its strategic plan.

"Most of the outcomes people associate with a university now are about employment," GMU President Ángel Cabrera told Selingo. "Our goals should be more than that. We claim to engage our students, train our citizens. We need to measure whether we are actually producing such graduates" (Selingo, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 2/4).


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