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College Ranking Scales Changing, Adapting


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For most high school seniors, the Oct. 31 date for college application submission marks an end to months of endless SAT prep, last-minute application touch-ups and relentless glancing at the latest college ranking scale.

Still, the college ranking game is slowly changing as an increasing amount of
university reviewers are emphasizing their focus on the cost payoff for the
average student.

Robert Kelchen, methodologist for Washington Monthly Magazine’s College Rankings,  emphasizes a new kind of grading. His America’s Best-Bang-for-the-Buck Colleges lists universities that meet four specific criterion.

“Colleges have to have at least 20 percent of students receiving pell grants, and that’s put in as a mechanism to ensure that colleges are actually charging low prices to a substantial number of low-income students,” he said. “The second criteria is graduation rate is at least 50 percent….”

The third measure is that institutions are outperforming their predicted graduate rates, Kelchen said, followed by the fourth requirement that student default rates are under 7.5 percent.

Still, Gail David, the senior guidance counselor at Newberry High School, said the ranking system is not on her students’ radar.

“We will get students applying to the 12 state universities in Florida,” she said.  “So the rankings really aren’t as big of a factor as much as how much they might earn in scholarships at these institutions based on their merit-based aid.”

However, Kelchen said this data gives a lot more leg room to the majority
of college-bound seniors.

“The cost of college is continuing to go up and there’s a perception college is out of reach for many students,” he said. “So what this list shows is that there are a number of institutions of pretty good quality that are relatively inexpensive for low to middle income families.”

Kelchen said students can borrow money for college through federal loans at low rates, and he recommends using the net price calculator, usually found on a college’s website, for predicting costs for incoming college students.

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