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Forbes 2012 College Rankings: Who Topped the List and Why?

Updated on September 22, 2011

Article updated to reflect 2012 Forbes college rankings.

Forbes Magazine has jumped into the college rankings department, long dominated by the U.S. New and World report. Although best known for their Forbes 400 list of the richest people in America, Forbes has garnered a lot of attention in recent years for their list of America's Best Colleges.

The Forbes list of top colleges first appeared in 2008. Unlike the U.S. News, Forbes did not intend on releasing a new list every year. The most recent list came out in 2012; the last was released in 2010. While some critics are calling for more frequent listings from the financial media giant, Forbes may be keeping mum in efforts to avoid some of the attacks launched at the more controversial U.S. News report.

Critics of the U.S. News college ranking lists claim that the publication artificially alters the ranking criteria every year in order to create a different ranking list. These annual changes to the list justify the yearly reports, thus selling more copies.


The Forbes rankings are listed at the bottom of the article.
The Forbes rankings are listed at the bottom of the article.

Forbes Ranking Criteria

The Forbes rankings aim to reflect a greater emphasis on student satisfaction, as well as recognizing academic achievement over name recognition and endowments.

The rankings were determined by the following criteria:

  • Alumni Acheivement - Measured by alumni inclusion in Who's Who In America. (25%)
  • Teacher Performance - Measured by student evaluations on RateMyProfessor.com. (25%)
  • Graduation Rates - Four year enrollments only. (16%)
  • National Award Recipients - Nationally competitive awards such as Rhodes or Fullbright Scholarships, MacArthur grants, etc. These numbers were adjusted for school size. (16%)
  • Value - Measured by average amount of student debt upon graduation for four-year students. (16%)


Praise and Criticsm for Forbes Rankings

The Forbes list attracted its share of praise and criticism. For many who had criticized the U.S. News lists as a popularity contest, the Forbes list seemed to be much more balanced and fair. While the U.S. News report tended to be dominated with the same large universities, the Forbes list included smaller colleges typically overlooked by rankings list. In addition, the emphasis on affordability in a decade of sky-rocketing tuition costs was a breath of fresh air for many.

Yet the Forbes list did have its detractors. Critics claim that the criteria are too subjective, and not an accurate assessment of true academic quality. Also, the use of the site RateMyProfessor.com was seen as flawed data, since student participation is voluntary and often erratic. However, even those who criticized the Forbes rankings were quick to point out that despite its inadequacies, the list was still a beneficial alternative to the standard U.S. News report.


Forbes 2012 Best Colleges (Top 20)

  1. Williams College
  2. Princeton University
  3. United States Military Academy
  4. Amherst College
  5. Stanford University
  6. Harvard University
  7. Haverford College
  8. University of Chicago
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  10. United States Air Force Academy
  11. Northwestern University
  12. Claremont McKenna College
  13. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  14. Yale University Columbia University
  15. Carleton College
  16. Swarthmore College
  17. United States Naval Academy
  18. University of Notre Dame
  19. Wellesley College
  20. Colby College


Sources

www.forbes.com/2010/08/11/best-colleges-universities-rating-ranking-opinions-best-colleges-10_land.html

bestcollegerankings.org/popular-rankings/forbes-college-rankings/

Comments

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    • Moravecglobal profile image

      Moravecglobal 5 years ago from California

      Over $1M dollars in administrative, legal expenses etc incurred by University of California senior management to pay the $1M pepper spray settlement. University of California senior management shell out millions for their clueless decisions. Hapless UC senior management wastes millions.

      Prop 30, 38 funding will be spent by incompetent UC senior management. It is up to the public to vote no on Prop 30, 38 to keep taxpayer funds from the eminently unwise University of California senior management.

    • profile image

      Margaret D Moravec 5 years ago

      Over $1M dollars in administrative, consultant, legal expenses etc is incurred by University of California senior management to pay the $1M pepper spray settlement. University of California senior management shell out millions for their clueless decisions. Hapless UC senior management wastes millions.

      Prop 30, 38 funding will be spent by incompetent UC senior management. It is up to the public to vote no on Prop 30, 38 to keep taxpayer funds from the eminently unwise University of California senior management.

    • profile image

      SmarttChick 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this list! I think these are useful even for students who are not planning to attend one of these specific schools, as they can compare the schools in their lists to see if some of the key components found in the Top 20 lists are present in some form.

      When it comes to borrowing (or spending) this kind of money (tuition), the more knowledge you can gather - the better!

    • Moravecglobal profile image

      Moravecglobal 6 years ago from California

      Higher Education Students suffer at University of California, ranked # 70. Every qualified student should get a place in the college/university system in California. That's a desirable goal for a public university. However, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau displaces qualified Californians with $50,600 foreign and out-of-state students.

      UC tuition increases exceed the national average rate of increase. The University of California Board of Regents jeopardizes Californians attending higher education by making UC the most expensive public university in the United States.

      Self-serving tuition increases are used by UC President Mark Yudof to increase the pay of 80,000 eligible faculty and others. Payoffs like these point to higher operating costs and still higher tuition for Californians.

      I agree that faculty in higher education and senior management, like Yudof and Birgeneau, should consider the students' welfare and put it high on their values.

      Deeds unfortunately do not bear out the students' welfare values of senior management and the UC Board of Regents.

    • profile image

      Husky1970 7 years ago

      Anaya, nice job. I like the idea that Forbes will not do an annual list. A list of this type should not change significantly yera-to-year. I found their list quite interesting. Voted useful and up. Thanks.

    • Anaya M. Baker profile image
      Author

      Anaya M. Baker 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Denise, that is strange. Comment should have gone through right away, I don't put any filters on them. Anyways, thanks for coming back to repost! I do enjoy the college rankings lists too. I know there's much more to a good school than just a number placement, but something about it appeals to the more orderly side of me.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Anaya-I left you a comment yesterday, but it isn't showing up here. Not sure what happened. Anyway, I enjoyed your very informative hub. I try to take a peak at this list once a year, when it gets posted. Always curious about who makes the list. congratulations on your hub being selected for the weekly student contest.

    • Jeremey profile image

      Jeremey 7 years ago from Arizona

      Interesting perspective on the subject. Valuable info here for anyone looking for information relating to the topic and how easily distorted the sources some chose to base their opinions on are actually based on. Thanks for shining the light on this.

    • Anaya M. Baker profile image
      Author

      Anaya M. Baker 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for the feedback Vern! I completely agree, Who's Who is a pretty weak measure of true academic achievement. What I thought was funny is that Forbes is trying to move away from the "popularity contest" that is US News, but using Who's Who and Rate My Professor is pretty much doing just that.

    • vrbmft profile image

      Vernon Bradley 7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

      Thanks for an informative hub. I do not seek out this kind of information, so it helps to have someone make it available to me. I also think the criteria are extremely subjective and in my mind offer no clue as to the quality of education offerred. I mean anyone can be in Who's Who. You just pay the cost and tell why you belong in there and that is it! Who's Who is basically a scam and it does not take any kind of education or degree to figure that out. Obviously, Forbes doesn't get it. So what can I say?

      Anwho, thanks for the informative hub

      Vern

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