Survey places College 10th on prestige charts

by Mary Haile | 10/28/04 5:00am

College rankings, a staple for many high school seniors when applying to schools, usually poll university administrators about the schools in question. One recent study, however, used students to determine the latest ordering of the nation's top institutions.

The study was conducted by four economists who surveyed the college selections of over 3,200 high school seniors from the Class of 2000 after they were admitted to college.

The authors of the study created a ranking system of over 100 colleges and recently presented their findings to the National Bureau of Economics. Harvard and Yale universities secured the first and second spots on the list, respectively, while Dartmouth lagged behind in 10th place.

That means that students tended overwhelmingly to chose Harvard and Yale above Dartmouth when deciding where to attend. The study took into account certain "push factors," such as whether or not a parent attended a particular school and how much financial aid the student received from the school, said Mark Glickman, one of the study's authors and a statistics professor at Boston University.

The researchers posited that their study provides a more reliable indication of college preferences, since they examined students instead of extraneous subjects they said are used by many other ranking systems. The widely-recognized U.S. News and World Report survey usually places Emory University in the top twenty-five of its list of "America's Best Colleges," but the economists found that the Atlanta school ranked in 61st place among the surveyed students.

The authors claim that their study offers an accurate system of college ranking, but Dartmouth Dean of Admissions Karl Furstenberg criticized the rankings for being based not on a school's actual worth but on its perceived worth, as determined by students who have yet to attend there.

"I don't think it's very complete because it's based solely on a student's decision where to attend, and I think that it's too dependent on the prestige, status, and recognition of the school," Furstenberg said.

Although the study used different methods, Dartmouth matched its usual ninth or 10th position in U.S. News and World Report for the past few years.

Furstenberg contended that the magazine, which relies upon deans of admissions to determine its annual ranking, creates a fair assessment since it focuses on other details of the College.

"I think the U.S. News and World Report is more thorough because it measures the College on a lot of different dimensions," Furstenberg said.

However, some students said they think these criteria don't bear much weight in high school seniors' college choices.

"I didn't choose to go to Dartmouth based on weird measurements like quality of life or matriculation rate," said Peter Cooch '07, noting that this study takes student views into account.

While the study concluded that subjects preferred to attend Harvard over other schools, some individual students may deviate from this finding.

Lindsey Larson '07 said she got into Harvard on early action but, as someone who enjoyed the outdoors, didn't want to go to school in the city.

"Rankings may have some base value, but overall I think choosing colleges is an individual decision process," Larson said.

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