UC Berkeley places 27th nationally in improved ranking system

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A paper ranking colleges based on their perceived desirability among high school seniors places UC Berkeley 27th among national universities.

“A Revealed Preference Ranking of U.S. Colleges and Universities,” published in February’s edition of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, aims to rank colleges based on “students’ revealed preferences.” The paper used a tournament-style methodology to rank more desirable colleges in a similar fashion to winners of a sports match.

“We saw this as an opportunity to use ways of ranking players in games and sports,” said Mark Glickman, a professor at Boston University and contributor to the project. “We took that logic and placed it onto what’s done for choosing schools.”

This design allowed the professors to estimate the probability that, given a set of schools to choose from after being admitted, a student will choose a specific college. After collecting data on the preferences of 3,240 competitive high school graduates from 2004, the researchers were able to compile a list of college rankings in order of how likely the colleges were to be chosen.

UC Berkeley, ranked 27th, falls between Middlebury College and the University of Chicago, meaning that students are more likely to choose UC Berkeley over University of Chicago but less likely to choose it over Middlebury.

According to Glickman, this new method of ranking is more accurate than established and highly practiced methods like comparing admission and matriculation rates. Because the rankings are based on elements founded strictly in desirability to each individual, they are not intended as an indicator of the quality of a college but rather the likelihood of a student choosing to attend.

“What we’re doing is a very pure approach of asking what are the schools that people actually prefer to go to,” Glickman said. “It’s a very different process, and we were much more direct about it.”

The researchers also defended their new method by claiming that it is not susceptible to the manipulation of admissions rate and matriculation rate statistics. The paper recommends its alternative ranking methods as a substitute to metrics used in more popular college-rating systems.

Within the past year, four colleges have admitted to publishing inaccurate data regarding their incoming classes. According to U.S. News & World Report, Emory University willingly supplied falsified statistics that influenced its ranking for a decade.

According to Glickman, these new college rankings have the potential to change the way that schools are assessed in future years and shift the focus away from arbitrary statistics.

“Our hope is that the way we look at students’ choices is a natural and robust way of ranking colleges,” Glickman said. “This kind of work could end up playing an important role in being able to evaluate colleges.”

Contact Claire Chiara at [email protected].