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In the first U.S. college rankings from The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Edu­cation, Hillsdale College wasn’t included because it neither accepts federal student loans nor col­lects racial infor­mation on its stu­dents and faculty.

The data for the rankings comes from the College Scorecard, a website main­tained by the U.S. Department of Edu­cation that pro­vides indi­cators about the cost and value of insti­tu­tions across the country on which Hillsdale also doesn’t appear. Hillsdale was added to the Edu­cation Department’s Inte­grated Post­sec­ondary Edu­cation Data System, or IPEDS, which sup­plies infor­mation to the College Scorecard, in the fall of 2015, after nego­ti­a­tions with the department. The college, however, remains missing from the scorecard because it isn’t a Title IV insti­tution, meaning it doesn’t accept gov­ernment money.

“It is assumed by people in the gov­ernment and aca­demic insti­tu­tions that everybody takes federal money and everyone tracks and shares racial data,” Director of Insti­tu­tional Research George Allen said. “Those two things, which Hillsdale refuses to do, have become uni­versal stan­dards most people don’t even think about.”

On Sept. 28, The Wall Street Journal printed a 12-page section devoted to the rankings developed by Times Higher Edu­cation, a London-based mag­azine for post­sec­ondary edu­cation news. Times Higher Edu­cation took into con­sid­er­ation col­leges’ resources, engagement, out­comes, and envi­ronment.

For each insti­tution, a graduate’s ability to repay student debt accounted for 7 percent of its score in the rankings. The data came from the College Scorecard because it is the only pub­licly available database with infor­mation on earnings and debt repayment for almost all U.S. uni­ver­sities, a Times Higher Edu­cation rep­re­sen­tative said in an email.

It chose to use repayment of loans in its cri­teria because U.S. college debt stands at $1.3 trillion and afford­ability of attending college is a main concern for many fam­ilies, the rep­re­sen­tative said.

Student and faculty racial and ethnic diversity accounted for 3 percent of col­leges’ scores. This infor­mation came from IPEDS.

Including that data helps stu­dents under­stand whether they will find them­selves in a diverse, sup­portive, and inclusive envi­ronment, according to Times Higher Edu­cation.

Hillsdale’s mission statement states it will educate “irre­spective of nation, color, or sex,” so the college doesn’t record any infor­mation about the race of stu­dents and faculty.

“These are cat­e­gories of infor­mation we either do not have or do not have and think it shameful to collect,” Provost David Whalen said in an email. “So, the WSJ has appar­ently accepted as mean­ingful cri­teria for ranking things in which Hillsdale does not engage on prin­ciple.”

Hillsdale was not the only college excluded from the rankings. The mil­itary acad­emies don’t have student loan repayment sta­tistics because all stu­dents attend for free, so they weren’t included either, Wall Street Journal reporter Doug Belkin said in an email. To appear on the list, col­leges also had to have more than 1,000 stu­dents with 20 percent or less taking online-only courses.

“It’s ridiculous,” Pro­fessor of History Paul Rahe said.

He added that the incoming freshman class’s test scores are the same as those attending places like the Uni­versity of Michigan, which was ranked the No. 1 public school and No. 24 overall.

Although The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Edu­cation didn’t rank Hillsdale, the school has con­sis­tently placed among the top liberal arts col­leges in the country in other post­sec­ondary edu­cation rankings.

With Hillsdale’s par­tic­i­pation in IPEDS, Allen said the college had hoped to appear in more college eval­u­a­tions.

“All sorts of infor­mation ser­vices use IPEDS as the standard, uni­versal database for stu­dents of higher edu­cation,” Allen said. “We just weren’t showing up.”

In the 2014 – 2015 aca­demic year, the college vol­un­tarily sub­mitted infor­mation — including grad­u­ation and retention rates, financial aid data, and enrollment numbers — to IPEDS. The database rejected the infor­mation, however, because the school didn’t have data on student race, Allen said.

After working with the Edu­cation Department, however, Hillsdale is now fully par­tic­i­pating as a vol­untary insti­tution in IPEDS, a rep­re­sen­tative from the department said in an email.

The Edu­cation Department, however, doesn’t cur­rently have plans to include insti­tu­tions that don’t accept federal funds in the College Scorecard because some data — including debt and repayment rate infor­mation, net price cal­cu­lation, and earnings data — is, by law, only available to Title IV col­leges, the rep­re­sen­tative said.

Even if Hillsdale was in the College Scorecard, it still wouldn’t have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education’s rankings because it doesn’t have infor­mation on federal student loans and race. The college admin­is­tration, however, said it would still like Hillsdale to show up in the scorecard.

“The college is on record as wishing very much to be listed on the College Scorecard,” Whalen said. “We have expressed our wish to be listed in some fashion at least so that those looking for Hillsdale College do not find a ‘hole’ where, in fact, the college should be found.”

  • BradinAZ

    Ideas have con­se­quences but some­times they are unforeseen.