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.”