Colleges With the Best (and Worst) Professors

Using data from the website RateMyProfessors.com (a site that allows students to evaluate their professors online), MoneyWatch.com has published a list of 25 colleges with the best professors, and — even more deliciously — another list of 25 colleges with the worst professors.

If we assume the data is reasonably representative of actual professorial quality (or at least of how students perceive professorial quality), the results are intriguing.

Here are the top ten colleges:

1. Oklahoma Wesleyan University

2. United States Military Academy (NY)

3. Clarke College (IA)

4. Wellesley College (MA)

5. North Greenville University (SC)

6. Master’s College and Seminary (CA)

7. Wabash College (IN)

8. Carleton College (MN)

9. Sewanee-The University of the South (TN)

10. Marlboro College (VT)

Some interesting observations about the high scorers: These are, in some respects, very different kinds of schools. The highest scoring school, Oklahoma Wesleyan, is an evangelical Christian college. Number two is a military academy. One thing most of the highest-rated have in common is that they tend to be liberal-arts colleges, rather than large research universities. This confirms the idea that many students thrive at small colleges, which often place more importance on teaching and building close student-faculty relationships, and where undergraduates tend to be taught directly by professors rather than graduate teaching assistants. There is not a single Ivy League institution in the top ten.

Here are the ten colleges with the worst ratings:

  1. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy NY

  2. U.S. Coast Guard Academy, CT

  3. Tuskegee University, AL

  4. Michigan Technological University

  5. New Jersey Institute of Technology

  6. Milwaukee School of Engineering, WI

  7. Bryant University, RI

  8. Bentley University, MA

  9. St. Cloud State University, MN

  10. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY

For me, what stands out here is the prevalence of science and engineering schools on the lowest-rated list. Perhaps the intense focus on faculty research at such schools comes at a cost to the professor-student relationship. Perhaps students feel that their professors are less invested in teaching and mentoring them, and thus tend to give them lower ratings. Just a guess.

In any case, it is interesting to see that U.S. military academies can be found at the top of both lists.

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