Bill Gates Thinks College Ranking Systems are Terrible

Posted in Blog on 02/26/2013

Bill Gates recently explained at a roundtable of bloggers and journalists in New York City, that he feels the current college ranking system has much to be desired. Gates believes that colleges and universities should be ranked according to the statistics of the incoming class, but rather on the university’s ability to teach, “The control metric shouldn’t be that kids aren’t so qualified. It should be whether colleges are doing their job to teach them. I bet there are community colleges and other colleges that do a good job in that area, but US News & World Report rankings pushes you away from that.”

Bill Gates is correct, in that the U.S. News and World Report ranking system does not have a way to effectively measure the success of the education. Here is a snapshot of the methodology used by U.S. News:

Ranking Category Category Weight Subfactor Subfactor Weight
National Universities
National Liberal Arts Colleges
Regional Universities
and Regional Colleges
National Universities
National Liberal Arts Colleges
Regional Universities
Regional Colleges
Undergraduate academic reputation 22.5% 25% Peer assessment survey 66.7% 100%
High school counselors’ ratings 33.3% 0%
Student selectivity for fall 2011 entering class 15% 15% Acceptance rate 10% 10%
High school class standing in top 10% 40% 0%
High school class standing in top 25% 0% 40%
Critical Reading and Math portions of the SAT and the composite ACT scores 50% 50%
Faculty resources for 2011-2012 academic year 20% 20% Faculty compensation 35% 35%
Percent faculty with top terminal degree in their field 15% 15%
Percent faculty that is  full time 5% 5%
Student/faculty ratio 5% 5%
Class size, 1-19 students 30% 30%
Class size, 50+ students 10% 10%
Graduation and retention rates 20% 25% Average graduation rate 80% 80%
Average freshman retention rate 20% 20%
Financial resources 10% 10% Financial resources per student 100% 100%
Alumni giving 5% 5% Average alumni giving rate 100% 100%
Graduation rate performance 7.5% 0% Graduation rate performance 100% 0%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100%

As you can see, there are virtually no categories for student success after graduation. Sure graduation and retention rates are a factor, but does simply graduating a student ensure they are adequately prepared to face the challenges of the “real world”?

I would argue that Bill Gates has a solid point. These ranking systems place a lot of important on the “undergraduate academic reputation”. Well, suppose something which has an amazing reputation does not live up to the hype….Y2K anyone?

My point is simply that higher education should be focused on education our students, rather than simply pursuing higher status ranking through a top 25 list. Before long, we might find our college and university system in a playoff to see which college will become this year’s National Champion. I for one, sincerely hope we never reach that day.

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