Blog: The Educated Reporter

Money Magazine’s College Rankings Examine How Much ‘Value’ Students Get

The folks at Money magazine are largely doing the work the White House sought to do but hasn’t: rate colleges and universities by the extra boost they give students in landing financially rewarding careers.

Released this week, Money’s rating system ranks more than 700 schools according to an in-house rubric for measuring how much value a college offers students given its price of attendance. 

It’s the second installment of Money’s college rankings issue, building on last year’s debut. The free version shows the viewer the college’s value-added score, the average net price and the average early career earnings. The premium version includes more statistics.

Some of the data used to calculate schools’ scores rely on third-party websites including PayScale and, to a smaller degree, RateMyProfessor. The methodology also takes into account average test scores, graduation rates, share of students with Pell Grants and other indicators. The full list is laid out here. 

Last year EWA Radio’s Emily Richmond and I interviewed Money’s lead writer for the rankings project, Kim Clark. The conversation centered around the story ideas reporters might find in the ratings and the the limits to datasets that rely on third-party resources like PayScale.

Listen to the Interview with Kim Clark

Much of the difficulty in finding reliable information on the value colleges provide students can be traced back to a federal restriction on certain types of student information that the higher education lobby supported. Passed in 2008, the congressional ban prohibited the federal government from creating a student unit record system that would collect information about every student’s ability to graduate, pay off debt and other key factors that weigh into the effectiveness of a college or university. 

During EWA’s Higher Education seminar last year, Clark argued that colleges’ opposition to something like a student unit record system has come back to haunt the postsecondary sector. “Institutions have been fighting accountability for years,” Clark said. “A lot of this stuff we’re having to get outside of the institution because they refused to provide accurate information.”