Williams College Takes Top Spot in Forbes’ University Rankings

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This week, Forbes released its annual ranking of the 650 best undergraduate academic institutions in America.  Its top ten however, are not quite as predictable as you might assume.

The magazine conducted its analysis using a set of criteria which encompassed caliber of professors, career opportunities the students are afforded, matriculation rates, and degree of student debt.  Forbes also boasts that in contrast to other lists and rankings of this nature, the contestable impact of “reputation” is excluded from all metrics in their list.

However, while Forbes did not directly factor “reputation” into its analysis, the ramifications of an institution’s notoriety is difficult to evade.  For example, better quality, more accomplished professors might be more attracted to prestigious institutions when seeking employment.  Corporations similarly might be more inclined to hire graduates of a school with outstanding name recognition.  These elements are in part what make university rankings so tough, and, often, so inconsistent.

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Forbes’ top ten are:

  1. Williams College
  2. Princeton University
  3. West Point
  4. Amherst College
  5. Stanford University
  6. Harvard University
  7. Haverford College
  8. University of Chicago
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  10. United States Air Force Academy

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Compare that to U.S. News popular list:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Princeton University
  3. Yale University
  4. Columbia University
  5. Stanford University
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  7. California Institute of Technology
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  9. Dartmouth College
  10. Duke University

The answer to “Why such a discrepancy?” is Forbes’ more fiscally-centered analysis.  Forbes reports that the list was developed solely for them by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, whose methodology incorporates student debt and value for education.  This explains the presence of several (no-cost) military academies in its top ten.

See the full list of 650 colleges at Forbes.