Historically, college rankings have been based largely on the prestige of the university and the relative overall quality of education that a prospective student could expect to receive. But with the cost of college education rising, there’s a new trend toward ranking colleges based on value, helping students and parents ensure that they get the most bang for their tuition buck.

A recently published New York Times article discusses how numerous publications are foregoing traditional ranking methods and turning instead to a value-based ranking system.
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Rise in Value-Based College Rankings

According to the article, this shift toward value-based rankings may have been spurred by a new initiative discussed by President Obama. In August, the President announced a plan to rate colleges based, not on prestige, but on their relative value and affordability. Those rankings would then be tied to the $150 billion worth of financial aid that the federal government gives out to universities every year. Should this shift in how federal aid is allotted to schools come to fruition, a school’s value would take on increased importance for both students and universities.

To date, publications that have begun to factor value into their rankings include U.S. News & World Report, Forbes Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and The Princeton Review, among others. However, so far, there is no general consensus as to how a school’s value should be measured. There isn’t even an agreement as to what constitutes value.

college rankingsWhile some of the ranking models examine value primarily as it relates to cost, such as the price of tuition and what scholarships are available to students, other ranking models look at tuition relative to how much graduates can expect to earn once they’re out in the job market. Other models also take into account a school’s academic ranking, the satisfaction of its students and its graduation rates.

This lack of consistency in how value is calculated can lead to schools receiving wildly different rankings on different lists. According to the New York Times article, Queens College, a branch of the City University of New York, ranked second on a list that emphasized social mobility. However, on a list that emphasized the salaries of alumni, Queens College came in 341st.

Finding Value in Other Ways

While it’s still wise to seek out universities based on their value, the inconsistency in these ranking methods can lead to some confusion. Therefore, it’s a good idea to look to some time-tested ways to save money on college as well. An article on Huffington Post lists some tried and true methods to help college students and their parents cut down on the costs of higher education.

First, it’s a good idea to start saving for college early, ideally right after your child is born. Set up a special college fund and contribute to it as often as you can. Also, it’s wise to get students involved in extracurricular activities. Universities often have scholarships that are awarded based on athletic or artistic excellence, not just on academic performance, so involvement in extracurriculars could be crucial. Finally, taking AP classes in high school can help to save a lot of money down the road. Often, high school AP classes can count as general education courses in college.

With the cost of a college education rising every year, more and more emphasis is going to be placed on saving money. Some of the cost cutting can be achieved by selecting a high-value, low-tuition school, while other savings can come through more traditional means. In any event, it’s important to keep affordability in mind while looking at options for college.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/neale-godfrey/the-value-of-education_b_3567899.html

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