Too Much the Same

The new Forbes rankings have arrived, and there aren’t many surprises. That’s the case even though their author, Richard Vedder, is trying to rank schools with outcome measures (salaries of graduates, number of Rhodes scholars, listings in Who’s Who) rather than U.S. News’s input and reputation measures.

The top of Forbes’s list hasn’t deviated dramatically from U.S. News’s list since it started in 2008. This year’s top ten include Williams, Princeton, West Point, Amherst, Stanford, Harvard, Haverford, University of Chicago, MIT, and the Air Force Academy.

There are, of course, a few differences. Haverford is a surprise, and Yale is only at No. 14, and undoubtedly the differences multiply when one goes down the list. But the Forbes rankings show that, by and large, the top schools judged by inputs and reputation are still the top schools, even when ranked by salary and Who’s Who.

So maybe they are, in fact, the top schools! But there’s an important fact we should not forget: Colleges that attract the most accomplished and ambitious high schoolers are likely to produce the most accomplished and ambitious graduates. That will be the case even if those students listen to professorial dogma and get easy “A’s” for the four years before they get their diploma.

Because students themselves are major contributors to their success, colleges strive to build a reputation that keeps talented teens applying (in many cases, only to be rejected). If they can keep the very best high-school students coming, they will have the best graduates, and they will perpetuate their reputations as great schools.

That’s why admissions officers are so important. If they’ve done their job well, the actual “value added” by teaching during the four years doesn’t matter all that much. That’s my beef with the rankings.

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More