The Good and the Bad of Ranking Colleges

Several services provide a ranking of colleges based on a number of different factors. The lists of ranks can help people easily find a school based on pre-determined criteria. But some people wonder if the each school’s rank is truly accurate.

Most of these ranking services review not just universities but also community colleges as well as the online programs. Here is a brief explanation of the rankings and how they can be of service to you in picking a school.

Defining a College Rank

The goal of the rankings is to give students more information that will help them pick an appropriate school. The colleges are compared and listed based on different factors such as the highest academic standards or the percentage of people completing a degree online in less than 4 years. Unfortunately too many students only consider these high ranking schools and miss out on strong programs that did not make it to the top of the list.

The Good of College Rankings

The college rankings can be an efficient way for students to weed through hundreds of schools in a short amount of time. Some of the ways in which the rankings are beneficial are:

  • Rankings often contain lots of solid data that a student can use. Demographic information such as the average GPA for all students, percentage of students finishing a degree in 4 years, male to female ratio, ethnic diversity and the typical age of a student can offer huge insight into the school.
  • The rankings usually provide the top schools for almost any search criteria. Students can get a list of the best private schools, the least expensive schools, top schools in the south and so on. This gives students a chance to focus on the one or two items of highest importance to them.
  • Rankings often stir up new action by low ranking schools. Although this is not the intention of the lists, schools that are consistently showing up in the bottom part of the list for a particular item may decide to take action to improve conditions and hopefully rank higher.

The Bad of College Rankings

Nothing is perfect and that goes for the ranking system as well. There are some items to keep in mind when looking at the ranks of different schools.

  • The percentage of applications accepted for admission is a major number used by most of the ranking systems. However, this number can be slightly misleading. A school that allows a small percentage of applications to attend their campus does not translate into a program that is automatically better than another school.
  • The school’s rank is irrelevant if the student does not feel comfortable at the school. The chosen teaching methods, the social life of the school and even the dominating weather can all make a student miserable at a very prestigious school.
  • Based on the subjective nature of many factors that comprise a college experience it is not always a case of comparing two similar schools. Students need to research all of the criteria of a school, not just the degree program.
  • The goal of college is to help prepare a person for a career. Unfortunately most of the rankings do not gather data about the number of students who found work immediately after graduation.

Popular Ranking Services

Many services offer different lists of schools based on a range of criteria. Here are some of the more popular services.

Princeton Review – Gathers a lot of data from surveys completed by students. The ranking service generates over 60 different lists based on special features.

U.S. News and World Report – Provides lots of data that can be used to compose lists for selected criteria. Some users are critical of the less than clear terms used in valuing schools.

Forbes – Resembles the U.S. News service in a lot of ways. However, this list does not lean heavily toward Ivy League schools.

College Prowler – Does not have the all inclusive information of some of the other lists. However, they do have special categories such as social life and average attractiveness of both genders.

Ruggs Recommendations – This is a ranking completed by Frederick E. Ruggs who once worked as a guidance counselor. His suggestions only consider the academics of the school and nothing else.

Online Schools (13)

Below please find's list of accredited Online Colleges. Click on the school of your choice and fill out the form to request free information.

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Ottawa University Online Program offerings:
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  • Business Administration and Management, General (Bachelor's degree)
  • Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration (Bachelor's degree)
  • Curriculum and Instruction (Master's degree)
  • Educational Administration and Supervision, Other (Master's degree)