Among the 100 highest were twelve institutions, led by the United States Military Academy of West Point linked with Massachusetts. Williams College in Massachusetts was first overall on Forbes’ list. Stanford University in California followed at number 2 and Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College third. West Point, a four-year co-educational federal service academy, ranked ninth. West Point has free tuition and offers more than 40 different academic majors. Also on the list is Columbia University at No. 20, Cornell University No. 31 and Barnard College No. 35. California and Pennsylvania each had 10 schools in the top 100.
Barnard is a women’s private school located in Manhattan. The college came in 54th place last year, and has moved up since then. “Barnard College does particularly well this year over last year with retention rates freshman to sophomore year and default rates,” said Christopher Denhart, administrative director at Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), which is based in Washington, D.C. and worked with Forbes to make the list. “They also do better in our American Leaders list this year.”
Mr. Denhart was not very impressed with how many New York schools made the list. He said, “I think that is kind of expected from such a big state.”
The schools were evaluated according to 12 factors to determine their rankings. The factors included graduation rates, student satisfaction, academic success, students’ salary after graduating along with post-graduate success.
“The difference between our list and others is that we focus entirely on output, [such as] how students feel about their college education and experience, how they fare after graduation and what their salary is,” Mr. Denhart said. “A lot of our ranking is also based on what the [students’] debt load is.”
He also observed that the concept of prestige is not really touched on in the Forbes’ ranking system. This is a stark difference compared with other similar well-known lists such as U.S. News and World Report rankings, which are ruled by the older elite schools like Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
“We try to stay away from that as much as possible,” he said. “We try to do a more data-[oriented] ranking and based on the facts that we think are important, we can see that Williams College might be a better school than Harvard.”
Mr. Denhart also praised the City University of New York school system, despite the fact none of its schools ranked in the top 200. The first CUNY School hit the list at No. 215, which was City College. Also, Baruch College was No. 244, Hunter College was No. 284 and Queens College was No. 289. Brooklyn College was listed No. 346, Lehman College in the Bronx was No. 394 and the College of Staten Island was No. 427. John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan was No. 483.
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