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14 US News Rankings Alternatives

It’s no secret that US News is the go-to site of many students who would like to simplify the hunt for some of the country’s best colleges. After all, it’s the one that made college rankings popular since it came into being in the early 1980s.

However, there are many other college ranking sites out there than US News.

No matter if you feel that US News’ college ranking isn’t making the search for a school easier or just want to check out other college ranking sites out there, don’t stop reading. Below, we will take a look at a total of 14 sites besides US News that come up with their own college ranking lists using their own formulas.

But first…

When it comes to college ranking lists, there is one thing you need to know. And it’s none other than the fact that you should take them with a grain of salt.

Needless to say, you should refrain from choosing a school based solely on what college ranking sites say.

It’s true that they can help simplify the college selection process.

For instance, college rankings can help you figure out which schools have high acceptance rates or pocket-friendly tuition. However, the problem strikes when the different factors are pieced together, and college ranking sites begin to tell you which schools are the best.

Just a quick tip: When checking out college rankings, always take a look at the formulas used by the different sites that offer them. Then, see which formula is the closest to your personal formula.

When it comes to choosing a college, no other formula matters than your very own!

So, without further ado, let’s check out some US News rankings alternatives. Always keep in mind that college rankings should only help you decide better, not decide for you.

Washington Monthly

The Washington Monthly has been ranking colleges and universities in the US since 2005. According to the site itself, its college rankings are its answer to US News, which it believes relies on crude factors that can be manipulated without trouble. The Washington Monthly, needless to say, is the product of dissatisfaction.

When coming up with college ranking lists, the Washington Monthly takes a look at contribution to the public good in three categories. They are research, social mobility, and promotion of public service.

Pro: The ranking methodology used by the site is plain and simple. This helps to fend off unnecessary confusion, although the factors used can be few and broad.

Con: Some schools are excluded right away from the site’s ranking lists, such as those that do not participate in federal financial aid programs.

Niche

According to Niche, it has produced more than 140 million school reviews and ratings, and that over 50 million people visited its site in the last year. It doesn’t come as a surprise since Niche offers some college ranking categories that you are less likely to find elsewhere. Some examples are Best Greek Life Colleges and Best College Food.

By the way, Niche is the go-to source of another college ranking site when figuring out the satisfaction of students with their schools. We will talk about that site next, so keep on reading.

Pro: The site has some creative but nonetheless helpful college ranking categories, which can make the search for good schools fun and exciting while keeping everything informative and enlightening.

Con: Niche gathers much of the information it needs from students. Although that’s a good thing, it can also compromise the resulting ranking lists since not all students are very good at providing insight.

Forbes

usnews vs forbes

It’s only in 2008 when Forbes started coming up with college rankings. Despite this, many consider its ranking lists more accurate and reliable than the listings of others. It’s because everyone knows that Forbes is a reputable company.

The ranking methodology used by the site is rather simple. For instance, it uses only six factors: student satisfaction, on-time graduation rate (based on surveys conducted by Niche), debt, academic performance, American leaders (based on the site’s database of successful people, such as billionaires and public servants), and alumni salary.

Pro: Because Forbes is a reputable business company, it’s less likely for its college ranking lists to be susceptible to manipulation by the colleges and universities the site ranks.

Con: As mentioned earlier, Forbes uses only a handful of factors in its ranking methodology. Some of the factors many students consider when looking for schools are not included, such as test scores and costs.

Money

The name makes it clear that Money focuses more on college rankings related to post-secondary education affordability. So, in other words, it’s a site that you might want to consider checking out if you are going to college on a budget.

Since it came into being, Money has already come up with seven Best Colleges for Your Money college rankings. What the listing does is that it analyzes the cost of attending 700 four-year colleges in the US. Besides affordability, which weighs 40%, the site also uses quality of education (30%) and outcomes (30%) as factors.

Pro: The site makes it plain for students to see the average costs of going to US colleges and universities without financial aid and also with grants.

Con: Because Money’s college ranking lists are mostly cost-centered, students who do not consider sticker prices as top considerations may find the site less helpful.

Kiplinger

If you are going to college on a budget, consider checking out the college ranking by Kiplinger. According to the site itself, what it’s looking for when ranking schools is high-quality education at an affordable price.

The way Kiplinger ranks US schools is simple. First, it scores schools based on academic quality (academic support, graduation rate, competitiveness, etc.), which has a weight of 55%. Then, it scores schools using certain cost and financial aid measures (45%) the site itself developed.

Pro: The site caters to students from low-income families since it specializes in rankings based on private and public schools with the best value and lowest average graduating debt.

Con: It seems like Kiplinger doesn’t come up with a list as often as US News and most other ranking sites. In fact, the last college ranking list it made was for the year 2019.

Princeton Review

First things first: the Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University. Just like US News, the site has been around since the early 80s. It offers test prep and tutoring services other than ranking colleges and universities.

Speaking of which, the college rankings by the Princeton Review are all based on student surveys. This can be a good thing as those with firsthand experience with the schools being ranked are the ones providing input. The site also has college ratings. All of them are based on data provided by the school administrators themselves.

Pro: The site has a total of 62 college ranking lists. They are divided into categories, some of which other ranking sites do not have. Some examples are the accessibility of professors, athletic facilities, and campus food.

Con: Because the data used by the site in ranking colleges come straight from the students themselves, the results can be influenced by the information the respondents provide.

College Factual

One of the nicest things about College Factual is that its founders, Bill Phelan and Josh McWilliam, struggled to make the best college selection decisions in the past. So, in other words, they had a firsthand experience similar to that of almost two-thirds of incoming college students who feel overwhelmed by choosing schools and majors.

To make it easier to check out college rankings, College Factual separates its listings into different categories. Some of them are Best Colleges for the Money, Best for Veterans, and Best by Religious Affiliation.

Pro: Besides providing college rankings based on its own ranking methodology, College Factual also offers College Match, a tool that allows you to discover colleges based on your preferred major and price.

Con: To date, unlike many other college ranking sites, College Factual does not include community colleges on its lists. So, in other words, students who would like to apply to community colleges should look elsewhere.

College Atlas

college atlas

What makes College Atlas different from most other college ranking sites is that it has lists you may not find anywhere else on the internet. For instance, it has lists such as Best Nursing Schools by State, Best Business Schools by State, and Best Schools for Entrepreneurs. The site even ranks the Top Colleges in Social Media and Best Christian Colleges.

Do you know what you want to major in but have no idea where to apply? Fret not! College Atlas also ranks US colleges and universities according to majors, from Business, Accounting to Fine Arts.

Pro: To eliminate as many inconsistencies and biases as possible, College Atlas produces its own college ranking lists and reports rankings by other sites, too.

Con: College Atlas doesn’t have a lot of college ranking lists on its site. It ranks schools based on a few categories only, which may not include the ranking category you deem important in the selection process.

National Science Foundation

Created by the US Congress in 1950, National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency designed to advance national health and welfare and promote the progress of science, among other things.

NSF also comes up with college rankings. When ranking US schools, it considers four factors only: total research and development expenditures, total federal obligations for science and engineering, number of full-time graduate students, and number of earned doctorates. On its site, the rankings are sortable according to these factors.

Pro: Because it’s an independent federal agency and only four factors are considered, there is less risk for the resulting rankings to be influenced by the schools themselves.

Con: Some students may find the college rankings by the NSF to be not as informative and flexible as listings by other ranking sites, especially those that include numerous factors in its ranking methodology.

Parchment

Established in 2003, Arizona-based Parchment is a digital credential service that helps students and learning institutions to request, verify and share credentials over the internet with ease and security.

It was only in 2012 when the site jumped on the bandwagon of ranking colleges and universities in the US. According to Parchment, the way it comes up with college ranking lists is quite different from other sites. What it uses is a formula similar to ranking chess masters, and the necessary pieces of information come from the students themselves.

Pro: Parchment’s college ranking lists are divided into four categories only (All Colleges, National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, and Masters Colleges), which allows for straightforward college rankings.

Con: The site does not cater to students who would like to rank schools based on an assortment of categories. This tends to make its ranking lists sort of one-dimensional.

Fulbright Scholars

Before anything else, let’s establish the fact that Fulbright Scholars is not like other college ranking sites out there. That’s because it’s a program that funds graduate education for international students who would like to study in the US. As a matter of fact, it’s a project by the US Department of State with funding provided by the US Government.

Its website offers a single college ranking list: top-producing learning institutions by year. You can filter the listing by academic school year and degree.

Pro: If you would like to choose schools based on the number of international students applying to them, then the college listing of Fulbright Scholars might be of value in your quest to find a good school.

Con: Besides the number of international student applicants, grants provided, and location, you won’t find any other categories in the site’s college ranking list.

The Best Schools

To keep its college rankings free of bias, the Best Schools has paired up with Academic Influence, which is a team of academic experts and data scientists working to provide a more objective ranking of schools.

According to the Best Schools itself, it offers students looking for colleges to apply to new insight. For instance, in its latest college ranking, Caltech, which is usually a high ranker in most college ranking lists, is only at number 38. The site explains that it’s for the fact that the well-known school may be strong in natural sciences but weaker in other disciplines.

Pro: Besides US colleges and universities, the site also includes a few schools abroad in its rankings. It’s because of this why it has the 100 Best Universities in the World Today college ranking.

Con: The Best Schools is not as quick-moving and updated as other college ranking sites. For instance, it has yet to release its college ranking lists for 2021.

College Raptor

What many students on the hunt for some of the country’s top colleges like about College Raptor is that the site ranks schools in ways that most others don’t. For instance, not a lot of college ranking sites rank US schools according to categories such as Athletic Conference and Region.

To come up with its various college rankings, College Raptor takes into account a huge database of publicly available data gathered from various sources. For accuracy, the site considers only data from the previous academic year.

Pro: The site ranks schools using different categories, some of which many students may deem important. For instance, the diversity category ranks schools by gender, ethnicity, and percentage of international students.

Con: Because some of the data used by College Raptor can come from information straight from the schools themselves, biased results are not unlikely to happen.

Times Higher Education

Since 2004, Times Higher Education (THE) has been providing trusted performance data on colleges and universities for the students and their parents as well as learning institutions themselves.

What’s great about THE is that it offers college rankings that are exclusive to it. For instance, it has what it refers to as Impact Rankings 2021, which assesses schools against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the United Nations (UN). THE also ranks colleges and universities from various parts of the planet.

Pro: You can think of THE as a one-stop source of details pertinent to the college selection process. Besides college rankings, the site also provides informative articles that can help students choose schools wisely.

Con: The site introduces new college ranking categories, some of which students may not have heard of before. As a result of this, some may end up even more confused than before checking out THE’s listings.

Takeaway

There are many sites that rank colleges and universities in the country besides US News. Each one of them considers different factors and employs different formulas when coming up with a list.

Due to this, college rankings can be subjective, which is why it’s not unlikely for College A to be number one on a particular list and number 185 on another list. What’s more, there’s also the fact that some schools might report falsified data to US News to make them rank higher.

In fact, back in 2013, US News itself posted about schools that misreported data used in the site’s rankings.

Because college rankings are far from being objective and can be manipulated, too, by schools, it’s a much better idea to rank colleges and universities using your own personalized formula.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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