New Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education U.S. College Ranking

Regardless of your opinion about rankings, the fact remains that humans seem drawn to headlines that tout “top 10” and “best.” Rankings assign value between services—some of which are distinctly different—but the institutional research community understands that such values are only as good as the methodology used to calculate them. As IR professionals, it is important that we stay up to speed with changes in the higher education landscape, especially when those changes relate to the production, analysis, and consumption of data. This is one way we provide value to our institutions and support their missions. As such, it is imperative for the IR community to be aware that a new source of college rankings has arrived on the market.

On September 28, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and Times Higher Education (THE) released their inaugural ranking of more than 1,000 U.S. institutions, the WSJ/THE College Ranking. The organizations share a goal of providing students and families a new way to explore higher education options with a specific focus on student success, including how colleges and universities add value to the student experience.

THE publishes the annual World University Rankings, and its partnership with WSJ to publish a new U.S. ranking expands its portfolio in this arena.

What makes the WSJ/THE ranking different from other rankings?

Unlike other sources, the WSJ/THE ranking does not require colleges and universities to participate through the provision of data. Rather, the ranking utilizes publicly available sources of information—IPEDS, College Scorecard, and the Bureau of Economic Affairs (BEA)—as well as the Elsevier bibliometric dataset, the THE Academic Reputation Survey, and the THE U.S. Student Survey, which seeks to understand student engagement and satisfaction.

The ranking methodology includes 15 metrics grouped into four areas:

Resources—30 percent of the overall ranking

  • finance per student (IPEDS, BEA)
  • faculty per student (IPEDS)
  • research papers per faculty (Elsevier)

Engagement—20 percent of the overall ranking

  • student engagement (THE U.S. Student Survey)
  • student recommendation (THE U.S. Student Survey)
  • interaction with teachers and students (THE U.S. Student Survey)
  • breadth/number of accredited programs (IPEDS)

Outcomes—40 percent of the overall ranking

  • graduation rate (IPEDS)
  • value added to salary (College Scorecard, IPEDS, BEA)
  • value added to loan repayment rate (College Scorecard, IPEDS, BEA)
  • academic reputation (THE Academic Reputation Survey)

Environment—10 percent of the overall ranking

  • proportion of international students (IPEDS)
  • student diversity (IPEDS)
  • student inclusion (IPEDS, College Scorecard)
  • staff diversity (IPEDS)

The goal of the methodology is to explore the factors that matter most to students and families when considering higher education options, including resources, types of community, academic reputation, and potential impact on future earnings.

What institutions are included?

The WSJ/THE ranking includes institutions that are Title IV-eligible, award four-year degrees, enroll more than 1,000 students, and have no more than 20 percent online students. Colleges and universities that did not meet the criteria were excluded from the ranking, as were institutions for which missing data could not be imputed or there were not enough valid responses to the student survey.

More information about the WSJ/THE College Ranking, including methodology details, is available on the THE website, and the ranked list of institutions is also available from the THE website. Questions may be directed to




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