New College Rankings Put Some Dark Horses At The Top | KERA News

New College Rankings Put Some Dark Horses At The Top

May 1, 2015

A new college ranking from the Brookings Institution has some surprising results—Rice and St. Mary’s in Texas are way above Northeastern elites like Dartmouth and Wellesley. The ranking is based on how much of an income boost you should get from college, versus what you actually get.  

For high school seniors trying to choose a college, there are plenty of lists out there of the best of the best.

If you want Nobel Prize winners teaching your classes, look at U.S. News and World Report. If you want to go to college with people who will make the most money, check out Forbes’ ranking.

Focusing on economic outcomes

Now the Brookings Institution has gotten into the game, with a tool that lets you see the value added of any college.

“We’re focusing on the economic outcomes of alumni from community and four-year colleges around the country," said Jonathan Rothwell, the Brookings Institution fellow who designed it.

"We’re trying to predict what outcomes would be for students with certain test scores, family income background, and the difference between the predicted outcomes and the actual outcomes is what we’re saying would be the value added of that college.”

For example, Brookings says the average student who enrolls for two years in the Collin County Community College District should earn about $57, 000 a year -- that's based on their test scores and demographics. But they’re actually making $62,000 a year.

That means that the value added of the school is 9 percent, which is high. 

"Our job ... is to open doors"

There are plenty of people who will never go to the Ivy League who still want to the biggest income boost from their college investment.

Dartmouth graduates may be pulling in over $100,000 a year, but the average student return on investment is higher at Collin College. 

“Our job as a community college is to open doors for those who are struggling to provide those low-cost on-ramps and entries to higher education," said Collin College President Neil Matkin.  "And I think we’re doing that.”

He says his students are leaving his school ready for four-year colleges or for careers.

Collin College was ranked in the 89th percentile by Brookings for boosting earnings of students. Tarrant County Community College District in Fort Worth was in the 69th percentile—still above average.

Brookings also ranked four-year colleges. Some in Texas did well. Texas A&M is in the 95th percentile, Southern Methodist University in the 81st.  A little down the list, in the 74th percentile for boosting earnings, are Dallas Baptist University, UT-Arlington and UT-Dallas.

Explore the Brookings report here.

Photo: Jorge Salcedo/