Whitman College, which was ranked 37th by U.S. News on the basis of the college's inputs, jumped to 9th when evaluated on its output by Vedder and company. Wabash College jumped from 52nd to 10th. West Point rose from 22nd to 7th.
One of my own favorite measures of output-- the percentage of a college's graduates who go on to get Ph.D.s-- was not used by either set of evaluations.
Small colleges dominate the top ten in sending their alumni on to get doctorates. Grinnell College, which was not among the top ten on either the U.S. News list or on Professor Vedder's list, sends a higher percentage of its graduates on to get Ph.D.s than does either Harvard or Yale.
No given criterion tells the whole story. In fact, the whole idea of ranking colleges and universities is open to question.
To someone who is making a decision where to apply, what matters is what is the best institution for that particular individual, which may not be best-- or even advisable-- for that applicant's brother or sister.
"Choosing the Right College" is by far the best of the college guides, partly because it does not give rankings, but more because it goes into the many factors that matter-- and which matter differently for different people.
What Professor Vedder's study does is provide yet another reason for parents and students not to obsess over big-name schools or their rankings-- or to go deep into hock over them.
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