To the extent that students reward value, the rankings do, too (tuition-free Cooper Union in New York City scores an impressive 43rd). And it allows schools of all sizes to be ranked on the same list, unlike U.S. News, which separates national universities and liberal-arts colleges.
That’s helpful because in practice, students are often choosing between a big and a small school, said general manager Brent Pirruccello, who helped create the rankings. Amherst College, No. 2 on the U.S. News liberal-arts list, is the top liberal-arts school in the Student Choice rankings, at No. 9 overall.
The second new system, which debuted Sept. 10, focuses on the other end of college—alumni satisfaction. Until now, individual colleges have surveyed their alumni, but surveying enough people across colleges to compare the results has been too complex.
A new company called The Alumni Factor is trying, claiming it’s surveyed and interviewed 42,000 alumni of 450 colleges over the last four years, and is now publishing the results on 177 well-known schools where it says it has enough data to be statistically reliable (at least around 200 alumni per school). The surveys try to pin down objective results on 15 attributes. Among them: intellectual and social development, friendships made, and even overall happiness of graduates. Other attributes are purely financial, such as percentage of graduates earning over $150,000.
A generic ranking blending the survey results in those 15 categories equally also produces some interesting results: Well-respected but not widely famous Washington & Lee University in Virginia finishes No. 1, followed by Yale, Princeton, Rice, and—another surprise—the College of The Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Some well-known names do less well. Harvard, for instance, scores spectacularly in the financial success categories, but relatively poorly on indicators like overall happiness and whether alumni would recommend the college to others.
Overall it’s 37th, between Carleton College in Minnesota and Vanderbilt.
Alumni Factor (a subscription site that will charge either $3.95 or $5.95 per month depending on access level) then adds a feature even rankings critics will probably like: It will let users generate their own rankings, using sliding scales on its website to give various factors more or less weight.