The latest U.S. News and World Report college rankings were released last month, showing Bryant breaking into the top ten, ranking ninth in the Regional Universities North category. While administration and students were happy to hear about the news, it’s important to take a step back, and recognize that college rankings are all different, and they frankly aren’t a good judge of how good a school is.
Top college ranking sites are all over the place. Forbes, for example, ranks Bryant 284th in the nation, putting us 173 spots behind Providence College, and 43 spots behind…believe it or not… the University of Wyoming. U.S. News and World Report also ranks Bryant as having the 183rd best business program in the nation.
At the same time, The Economist’s proprietary rankings system, which is based entirely on alumni earnings, is very favorable to Bryant. Their rankings are based on the premise that “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.” Their model found that Bryant students make on average $4,700 more annually than they would have had they gone to another school. Their rankings place Bryant ahead of, believe it or not, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell, Stanford, and several other high-caliber schools. The idea that one site can rank us above Yale in a given category, while another ranks us 173 places behind Providence College simply proves the inconsistency of college rankings.
Further rankings from U.S. News and World Report name Bryant the 5th best school in the nation for veterans. While this is undoubtedly a great accomplishment for the university, another reputable rankings site had a much different outlook on Bryant. The 2016 Best for Vets College list from MilitaryTimes.com didn’t have Bryant University in their list of 125 schools. The point here is not that Bryant University is in the top 5 or isn’t in the top 125. Bryant University is a great school, regardless. Instead, the point to be made is that rankings all have different methodologies for evaluating schools, so they aren’t really a good judge of which schools are best.
So how do we honestly gauge which schools are the best? It starts with an honest evaluation of why we go to college. Certainly goals of college include things like growing as individuals and becoming more independent. However, if we look at college as an investment, the end goal is no doubt to get a good, high-paying job after graduation. Now assuming this is the primary end goal, then we should judge universities based on how likely their graduates are to graduate, how many students get jobs, and how much their students are making after graduation. That being said, data from the U.S. Department of Education shows Bryant graduates have a higher salary than graduates from any other Rhode Island school, including Brown. Boasting an average salary of $64,500 ten years after leaving college, Bryant graduates make $31,000 more than the national average for former college attendees. Likewise, 90 percent of our graduates, on average, make more than those with only a high school diploma, compared to 75 percent of Brown graduates.
Our job placement numbers are strong too. The University’s latest numbers show that 99 percent of Bryant graduates are either employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.
There’s strong evidence that Bryant is a top-notch university. Just look objectively at data on wages or job placement. So from now on, let’s continue to make the case that we’re a great school by boasting our strong numbers on job placement and salary, rather than by citing arbitrary college rankings.