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I am not a fan of “best practices” or “best school rankings.” Below are some claims made by a university celebrating the “fact” that they are reputedly included among the “best” schools in the country and the data sources from which the claims are made. BESTU is my fictional university very much in need of being educated on how better to use this information. The information in the different sources, carefully read, can indeed be useful for identifying a school which might be a good fit for students. So, too, will the data bases I share below.

A Top-ranked School

Congrats on discovering BESTU University, one of the top-ranked liberal arts schools in the Midwest! Year after year, BESTU appears on numerous lists of the best colleges and universities in the country. These rankings are created using a variety of metrics—from faculty-student ratios to retention rates, graduation rates, average salaries, financial aid offerings and more. Whether you’re talking Money Magazine’s Best Colleges, Forbes Top Colleges or US News’ Best College lists, we’re pretty proud to have made the grade!


Money Magazine  |  Best Colleges in America Money Magazine considered graduation rates, tuition, financial aid and graduates’ earning potential to rank BESTU among its Best Colleges in America.
Forbes |  America’s Top Colleges Forbes Magazine focuses on outcomes such as graduation rates, annual alumni salary, student debt, student retention rates and career success to compile its list of America’s Top Colleges. BEST University appeared among the top schools on three categories: Top Colleges, Private Colleges and Best in the Midwest.
 U.S. News & World Report  |  Best Colleges

BEST University ranked #? in Best Value Schools and #? in Regional Universities Midwest. The Best Value category highlights schools that score above average academically and cost far less than other schools when financial aid is considered. Only schools in that placed in the top half for their academics were considered.

BestColleges.com  |  Best Colleges in Wisconsin

The website BestColleges.com ranks schools across the country on academic quality and affordability, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics and rates BESTU among the top universities in Wisconsin. Schools listed in the site’s rankings demonstrate “a commitment to high-quality education for their students,“ according to the website.

Washington Monthly  |  Best Bang for the Buck

BESTU has been ranked among the top universities in the Midwest in the Best Bang for the Buck category by Washington Monthly. The rating highlights schools that “help non-wealthy students obtain marketable degrees at affordable prices,” according to the website.

WalletHub.com  |  2019 College & University Rankings

Wallet Hub ranks BESTU  Xth in the state of Wisconsin for 2019. The website measured nearly 1,000 colleges and universities across the country, examining metrics such as student-faculty ratio, graduations rates, post-attendance salaries, student loan default rates and more.

Niche.com | Best Value Colleges in Wisconsin 

The website Niche ranks BESTU as one of the best value colleges in Wisconsin and gives BESTU top grades for value and safety.

I feel that is very important to be aware of educational data resources and of the importance of understanding their value, their assumptions, their limitations, and their potential uses and misuses. Below are nine of my favorite data resources. What have I missed?

  1.  Payscale.com’s recent release of 2018 College/University ROI data base
  2. CollegeScoreCard (click on link and try it) wonderfully introduces an important trend toward TRUE TRANSPARENCY in data sharing and a very useful interactive data base for comparing schools
  3. The UW Accountability Dashboard similarly exemplifies this healthy trend.
  4. College Results Online is  such a gem in the rough.
  5. Chronicle of .Higher Education (I pay for premium access.)

  6. AAUP Salary Data: Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

  7. Executive Compensation at Private Colleges: Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

  8. IPEDS (individual institutions and comparisons

  9. Here is a link to the U.S. Department of Education’s  data base “trove” that drives its data base.