by Jane S. Shaw

I’m surprised that there has been so little comment (here and elsewhere) on the Wall Street Journal’s top 25 colleges, which were announced on Monday. I personally think that this ranking is equal in importance to Charles Murray’s 2008 entrance into the discussion of whether too many students go to college. (He elevated the debate into a national issue.)

This ranking is totally different from the others.

The Wall Street Journal surveyed 479 of the biggest employers, private and governmental, to find out which schools they consider best for recruiting. The top 25 universities (there were 27 in total because of two ties) were all public universities except for Notre Dame (#22), MIT (#23), University of Southern California (#24), and Cornell (#14), which is a hybrid. None except for Cornell is in the Ivy League.

I suppose it is easy to dismiss this ranking. It’s about jobs, not education. It’s about numbers — the student body must be large for the school even to be considered.  Even so, it’s going to have an impact.

The Wall Street Journal has prestige, more prestige overall than either U.S. News or Forbes. Think of the mileage that Penn State can get by being No. 1 on a Wall Street Journal list; that Texas A& M will get by being No. 2; or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by being No. 3.

The survey will increase student quality at the 27 universities, and by making public universities more acceptable it could actually dent the prestige of the Ivies — something that has never happened before. A lot depends on whether parents and their prospective students want jobs or a prestigious degree. As Judith Eaton, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, told the Wall Street Journal, “I don’t think education is only about jobs, but for a lot of students — let’s face it — it is about jobs.”