The rankings consider how well colleges’ alumni performed on three economic measures: midcareer earnings, student-loan repayment, and occupational earnings power, the average salary within the occupations of alumni of a given college or university.
To come up with value-added measures, the think tank compared the performance of a college’s alumni on each gauge to their expected performance based on student characteristics and college type. This calculation is meant to determine the portion of alumni success that can be attributed to the college, rather than giving an institution credit for enrollment success.
The report, “Beyond College Rankings: A Value-Added Approach to Assessing Two and Four-Year Schools,” presents an analysis of college “value-added” with respect to the economic outcomes of a large number of college graduates, adjusting the variables for the characteristics of each colleges’ students at the time they are admitted, as well as other factors. According to the report, which analyzed data from over 7,000 institutions of higher education, the resulting measures capture the contributions that the colleges themselves make to their graduates’ eventual economic success.
The report finds that four-year colleges add the most value to student earnings potential. Of the four-year or more colleges, Rensselaer was ranked in the 99th percentile in terms of the value added to the occupational earnings power of the typical graduate, the value of alumni skills, and in the average aid per student provided by the institution.
“These measures highlight the important contributions that colleges and universities make toward student success,” said Prabhat Hajela, provost. “At Rensselaer we focus on enrolling well-prepared students and providing them with a transformative academic and student-life experience that prepares our future alumni and alumnae for continued success.”
The report uses a blend of government and private data (from LinkedIn and Payscale) to demonstrate that a college’s mix of majors and the skill set provided students are highly predictive of economic outcomes for its graduates. For example, colleges where many students pursue degrees in fields like engineering, healthcare, computer science, and business see higher earnings among their alumni. The study reports and analyzes data on alumni earnings (for those who have worked at least 10 years), student loan repayment rates within three years after enrollment (a measure of economic self-sufficiency), and occupational earnings power (a measure of career prospects). The report covers two-year as well as four-year colleges. It pinpoints measures of college quality that are strongly associated with successful economic outcomes for alumni, including the share of graduates prepared to work in STEM fields and the average level of institutional financial aid.
“These college-specific data can be used to learn about, evaluate, and improve college performance,” said Jonathan Rothwell, a Brookings fellow and co-author of the report. “Colleges serve very diverse populations. The advantage of measuring value-added is that it adjusts a school’s rankings based on the type of college an the characteristics of its student body.”
The Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings provides decision-makers with cutting-edge research and policy ideas for improving the health and prosperity of metropolitan areas. To view the full report, visit http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports2/2015/04/29-beyond-college-rankings-rothwell-kulkarni