These Colleges Would Get High Honors on Obama Ranking

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—How will President Barack Obama's college ranking program actually appraise colleges? While it's too early to tell, and the plan may be timed to coincide with the 2014 elections, ranking the colleges may be a mixed bag, both for what it says about schools that could end up on Obama's Honor Roll and how their inherent weaknesses may not auger well of such a list's usefulness. That's beside the practicality and questionabl net-benefit of the ranking system to the fortunes of many students graduating from schools who make it.

The ranking system seems to identify the schools that do more with less for students that come from under-served populations. The crux of the plan, which is being developed by the Department of Education, is that students attending the higher-ranked schools will be eligible for more tuition aid. Its rating system is comprised of the following three quantitative elements:

  • Accessibility. Are the colleges accessible to low-income students?
  • Affordability. Are the colleges inexpensive?
  • Outcomes. Are the students successful? Did they graduate?

Each element — accessibility, affordability, and outcomes — was worth one-third of the final score.

Business Insider built its own ranking system based on these elements—one that was intended to give a rough estimation of what the Obama list might look like.

Taking its cue from the Obama proposals, it is built on Department of Educations (ED) data. Business Insider summarizes its methodology by stating, "We raided the Department of Education's Integrated Postgraduate Educational Data System (IPEDS) and used that to score statistics on thousands of colleges."

Since ED data was used, it begs some ED-centric questions: is this a legitimate study? Did they accurately interpret--or misinterpret--data in Ed's Integrated Postgraduate Educational Data System (IPEDS)? How easy or difficult would it be for a given school to game this system?

A spokesperson for the Department of Education, who declined to be identified, said that ED would have no comment.

Of the ten schools, only one, Trident University International, is a for-profit, online college. Two are from New York City, five are from south of the Mason-Dixon Line, three more are from California.

Four number categories stand out. The first two are annual tuition, low for all ten by any standards, and the annual starting salaries of graduates—high for schools located in the Northeast, while others, mainly in the South, are low. The third and the fourth were more ominous. The number of student who receive Pell grants, a predictor of economic hardship, were extremely high, and the graduation rate, defined as being able to complete a BA or BS degree in four years, was very low in all ten schools on the Business Insider list.

1. Touro College
75% of the student body receive Pell grants
34% Graduate
Annual tuition is $21,200 per year
$52,000 is the average starting salary for graduates

2. Trident University College
58% of the student body receive Pell grants
72% Graduate
Annual tuition is $18,000
$52,000 is the average starting salary for graduates

3. CUNY Lehman College
73% of the student body receive Pell grants
40% Graduate
Annual tuition is $12,600
$39,600 is the average starting salary for graduates

4. Tennessee State University
80% of the student body receive Pell grants
36% Graduate
Annual tuition is $16,300
$42,900 is the average starting salary for graduates

5. California State University, Los Angeles
67% of the student body receive Pell grants
36% Graduate
Annual tuition is $10,900
$44,000 is the average starting salary for graduates

6. California State University, Dominguez Hills
74% of the student body receive Pell grants
24% Graduate
Annual tuition is $9,300
$38,000 is the average starting salary for graduates

7. North Carolina A&T State University
87% of the student body receive Pell grants
41% Graduation rate
Annual tuition is $14,600
$44,600 is the average starting salary for graduates

8. Winston Salem State University
73% of the student body receive Pell grants
31% Graduation rate
Annual tuition is $12,300
$39,400 is the average starting salary for graduates

9. Fayetteville State University
75% of the student body receive Pell grants
31% Graduation rate
Annual tuition is $12,300
$36,000 is the average starting salary

10. Alabama A&M State University
75% of the student body receive Pell grants
32% Graduation rate
Annual tuition $14,600
$39,100 is the average starting salary

--Written by John Sandman for MainStreet

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