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The Economist’s new college rankings: It pays to stay local

(AP Photo/David Mercer, File)

(AP Photo/David Mercer, File)

According to a new system of college rankings released by The Economist, students who go to local colleges are likely to earn more money than those who choose to attend elite universities.

The ranking system was developed as an alternative to that of the U.S. News & World Report rankings that currently carry so much weight. 

“American universities claim to hate the simplistic, reductive college rankings,” according to The Economist report.

“[Our] first-ever college rankings are based on a simple, if debatable, premise: the economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much money its students subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere.”

Over 1,200 higher education institutions were ranked on the basis of tuition, projected income, and median incomes of graduates.

Much of the data in the college rankings are based on already collected bits of information from the U.S. Department of Education’s newly released “college scorecard” — a guide that has been met with great controversy over the validity of wage data and affordability.

Mark Guydish at The Times Leader analyzed the rankings and concluded that it is a fiscal advantage for students to attend a local college.

“Graduates from most local colleges and universities should make more money than if they had enrolled elsewhere,” he wrote.

The Times Leader analysis found that graduates of the local University of Scranton (ranked 22nd on the list), and Wilkes University (25th on the list), earned, on average, over $8,000 more than expected. Additionally, students who attended Misericordia University and King’s College ranked 73rd and 102nd respectively, each earned more than $5,000 above expected.

The Economist also suggested that “top tier” colleges aren’t always the best option for students, and their potential earning power. In fact, several major institutions ranked very poorly on the list, such as Yale (ranked 1,270th), Princeton (ranked 770th), and Columbia of NY (ranked 1021st).

Rankings were based on a multiple regression analysis that found the gap between how much money students earn and how much they might have made if they enrolled at another institution. The Economist also created a “Marx and Marley index,” named after Karl Marx and Bob Marley, to avoid penalizing universities that tend to attract students who intentionally choose not to pursue lucrative fields of study.


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