Penn Jumps to 17th in Forbes “Top Colleges” Ranking

The University placed 52nd in 2011

Daily Pennsylvanian
August 1, 2012

By Shelli Gimelstein

Penn’s national ranking is on the rise.

According to a Forbes magazine ranking of America’s Top Colleges released on Wednesday, Penn was ranked 17th overall among universities in the United States. Princeton University took the top spot, followed by Williams College, Stanford University, the University of Chicago and Harvard and Yale universities.

For the past two years, Penn’s ranking has shifted dramatically, dropping from 36th place in 2010 to 52nd place in the 2011 ranking.

This year, Cornell University was the only Ivy League institution not ranked in the top 50.

Forbes and the Center for College Productivity and Affordability used a slightly different methodology for the college rankings than in previous years, according to Forbes Executive Editor Michael Noer. He explained that this year, they slightly increased the weighting given to colleges that produce prominent and highly paid alumni, as well as graduates who win nationally competitive awards such as the Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships.

“While the changes in weighting were small – no more than a couple of percentage points – they had the effect of rewarding schools who are more academically selective, like Penn,” Noer wrote in an email. “We slightly discounted 4-year graduation rates. We have never measured schools by selectivity, but we felt this rewarded more academically rigorous programs by a little bit without compromising the core of our philosophy.”

The ranking is meant to evaluate the outcomes of graduating each college, taking into account “low debt, good paying jobs, getting your degree in four years, high reported satisfaction with teaching,” Noer said. “But we did feel that [post graduate] academic performance was slightly undervalued, so we adjusted it a little bit. It helped all the Ivies, not just Penn.”

Top Colleges Educational Consultant Steven Goodman, a 1989 Graduate School of Education alumnus, believes the 17th place ranking is “big for Penn.”

While other rankings like U.S. News and World Report tend to focus more on reputation, the Forbes survey looks at academic quality and careers – making this a significant jump for Penn, according to Goodman.

“Reputation drives numbers, but admissions is not only about quantity, it’s about quality as well,” Goodman said, adding that Penn may see an increase in its applicant pool’s quality as a result.

Forbes also named Penn 16th among private colleges and 9th among research universities in the nation.

Additionally, Forbes ranked Penn the 6th most entrepreneurial college, citing the business achievements of 1997 graduate Elon Musk, who co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors. Forbes compiled the data from the LinkedIn profiles of 20 million college graduates, finding that the alumni of schools on the list were the founders of the most companies with 10 or more employees.

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