A “Best Universities” Ranking Virginians Can Be Proud Of

by James A. Bacon

There are multiple college rankings these days. Results vary widely based upon the criteria used to rate the institutions: prestige, social justice, affordability, and the like. Money magazine uses 24 factors reflecting upon the quality of the education, the cost of the education (net price after adjusting for financial aid), and outcomes (post-graduate earnings, economic mobility and return on investment).

I could give a flying fig about “prestige” — prestige in the higher-ed world doesn’t translate into anything I value — or “social justice,” as defined by leftists. Money magazine’s ranking comes closest to reflecting my values and priorities, which can be summed up as educational value added.

Of the 671 institutions that met Money’s qualifications (minimum size, reliable data, above-median graduation rate), here is how Virginia institutions fared under Money’s methodology.

University of Virginia — No. 3.
Virginia Military Institute — No. 5
Washington & Lee University — No. 11
Virginia Tech — No. 22
George Mason University — No. 72
James Madison University — No. 86
William & Mary — No. 104
University of Richmond — No. 137
Radford University — No. 296
Christopher Newport University — No. 315
Longwood University — No. 386
Virginia Commonwealth University — No. 443
University of Mary Washington — No. 470
Regent University — No. 483
University of Lynchburg — No. 501
Hampden-Sydney College — No. 509
Marymount University — No. 519
Roanoke College — No. 532
Virginia State University — No. 610
Hampton University — No. 618

Not ranked: Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, University of Virginia-Wise. Expensive, elitist Ivy League schools are not on the list either.

To get a sense of how this list is compiled, consider the following metrics reported for:

University of Virginia
Acceptance rate: 23%
Estimated full price 2022-23: $36,700
Estimated price with average grant: $20,100
% of students who get grants: 48%
Graduation rate: 94%
Early career earnings: $77,050

Virginia Military Institute
Acceptance rate: 60%
Estimated full price 2022-23: $33,300
Estimated price with average grant: $20,000
% of students who get grants: 85%
Graduation rate: 78%
Early career earnings: $71,900

Washington & Lee
Acceptance rate: 25%
Estimated full price 2022-23: $79,800
Estimated price with average grant: $28,700
% of students who get grants: 61%
Graduation rate: 95%
Early career earnings: $86,020

It has not escaped my attention that three universities I frequently write about on this blog — UVa, VMI, and Washington & Lee — top the list. To a greater or lesser degree, all three have turned their backs on the traditions that helped make them great and, to a greater or lesser degree, have begun embracing corrosive leftist doctrines. In my interpretation, they are living off institutional capital built up over decades.

That said, it’s gratifying to see that they rank well.

Of concern: Virginia has many colleges and universities, both public and private, that rank very poorly. I don’t mind the fact that Virginia institutions don’t top the list of most prestigious universities, which function as IQ sorting machines, build up extravagant endowments, and generate high “peer” ratings that reflect a mutual admiration society. I do mind that some fall short on the “educational value added” test. That’s the test that any institution that receives public dollars must meet.

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15 responses to “A “Best Universities” Ranking Virginians Can Be Proud Of”

  1. Lefty665 Avatar

    Virginia Union University is not ranked either.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    well, they do include this:

    ” Economic mobility index (10%). We included new data provided by Third Way that measures a college’s share of students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds as well as the cost and payoff of a degree for those students.”

    and this:

    ” Value-added graduation rate: 30%. Many education experts and college officials point out that the basic graduation rate number, while useful, is an insufficient indicator of a college’s value because research shows that wealthier students and students who got good grades in high school are more likely to graduate on time no matter what college they attend. In other words, elite schools, which disproportionately enroll such advantaged students, are expected to have high graduation rates. For that reason, we calculated each school’s relative performance after accounting for the economic background and academic preparation of its students (measured by the percentage of attendees receiving Pell grants, the majority of which are given to low-income students; the standardized test scores and high school GPAs of incoming freshmen; and the share of traditional, full-time students on campus). The higher a school’s graduation rate was above the rate predicted for a school with that particular mix of students, the more value that particular college is assumed to have added. (A 2013 OECD review of research on value-added analysis says it can provide “a more ‘accurate’ estimate of the contribution educational institutions make to students’ academic progress” by isolating student attainment from other contributing factors such as family characteristics and socioeconomic background.)”

    sounds a little “woke” to me………

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    Good to see the University of Virginia more than 100 positions above William & Mary. Pretty much confirms my long-held suspicions.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Proof they’re wrong; pretty much as you always are.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        “Quality of education (30% of weighting), which was calculated using:

        Six-year graduation rate (30%). We adjust our six-year graduation rate to capture students who transferred into a college as well as first-time students.
        Value-added graduation rate (30%). This is the difference between a school’s actual graduation rate and its expected rate, based on the economic and academic profile of the student body.”

        W&M is well-known for grade deflation compared to other Va schools. They wear it like a badge. To get an A in any course there you actually have to earn an A. If you see anything above a 3.5 GPA on a W&M grad resume you need to hire that person because they are most definitely sharp. Given the methodology outlined above, this would push W&M down in the rankings even though the outcome in terms of education received is far superior. Note that the W&M grads (I am not one but 2 of my kids are) on this board feel no need to defend their school ranking… they lived the truth…

        Personal note… third kid is a UVA grad so I am not biased. Oldest (one of the W&M alumni) did his master work at UVA… breezed through… was a cakewalk in his opinion… marketing is everything these days though…

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          I always felt at home when at work. I was the first W&M grad hired. When I retired there were 5 of us, 4 MS, 1 BS who did his MS at ODU because he was living in Norfolk at the time.

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    You do realize that all of these rankings are purchased, right?

    BTW, good news, the Taxman returneth soon.

    1. Lefty665 Avatar

      and what of the Eggman and the Walrus?

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        They never left, albeit they were entangled in string and sealing wax…

  5. Wahoo'74 Avatar

    Very interesting data, Jim. I agree with your conclusions. Given the godawful cost of a college degree today, you better get a strong “educational value add” rating or why else should parents invest a good portion of their life savings to send their kid there in the first place?

  6. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    All institutions of higher Ed receive public funds in some form even the for profits.

  7. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    We should be proud of our public education system (K-12 and higher). Would be great to see a BR piece that wasn’t always trying to drag it down… even this one… you sure you guys aren’t from NC…??

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      I agree. It’s not all “good news” but it sure as heck is not all “bad news” though sometimes it seems so through the BR lens.

      And it’s gotten much worse with the advent of the culture war.

      You, like a ton of others in Virginia, have kids that did well in their K-12 schools, so well, they became graduates of some of the best colleges in the world (yes, folks from other countries come here to attend our Colleges).

      But here in BR, the “news” is about how K-12 is a “failure” and that 40% or some such “fail” to achieve even “proficient” skills AND of course, it’s due to kids that are “discipline” problems and “woke’ teachers who indoctrinate and … now “groom” kids, too many administrators, too much emphasis on equity and “divisive concepts”, etc, etc.

      This is not really a new thing from the right, though as they have over the years considered public schools to not be what they want and their answer is more often than not, private schools funded with public tax dollars where such schools can teach religion, prayer, and conservative “values” and kick out any kids who don’t behave, etc, IOW run the schools the way Conservatives think they should be run.

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