Hills­dale’s Central Hall. Courtesy

Despite its selective admit­tance rate and aca­demic rigor, Hillsdale College was excluded from the Wall Street Journal’s annual college rankings because it “does not par­tic­ipate in the federal student aid program,” according to the Journal’s senior director of com­mu­ni­ca­tions Steve Sev­er­inghaus.

The Journal ranked nearly 1,000 U.S. uni­ver­sities and private col­leges in a report pub­lished last week, but only con­sidered those schools that report certain data to the Department of Edu­cation. This method­ology differs from other pub­li­ca­tions, like the U.S. News and World Report and Princeton Review — both of which reach out to indi­vidual schools not in the database for infor­mation. As a result, Hillsdale is included in the U.S. News’ Best Col­leges list released this week — ranking 76th among national liberal arts col­leges — but doesn’t appear in the Journal’s.

Hillsdale does not accept federal funds and is thus not required to submit infor­mation about stu­dents’ race, eth­nic­ities, and genders to the Department of Edu­cation. It is also not tied to Title IV guide­lines, which determine federal financial aid — a factor the Journal requires for a four-year school to be con­sidered. Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn said this policy has “worked well” for the college and has been in place for 60 years.

“It is the reason we are able to recruit, admit, and teach as if everyone who comes here is a student, an indi­vidual, a free person, and not a rep­re­sen­tative of a group,” he said in an email.

Even if Hillsdale sent data not readily available via the Edu­cation Department directly to the Journal, Director of Insti­tu­tional Research George Allen said the Journal would still not con­sider Hillsdale “because non-Title IV schools are inel­i­gible to appear in their rankings.”

Provost David Whalen called this method­ology “clumsy.”

“Hillsdale merits inclusion because of the obvious strength of the edu­cation here,” he said in an email.

Allen said the Journal also requires infor­mation Hillsdale could not provide, like federal loan repayment rates and the ethnic pro­files of its stu­dents and faculty. Until this method­ology changes, he said, Hillsdale will not appear in the Journal’s ranking, though Sev­er­inghaus said the Journal “hopes to include Hillsdale in the future.”

Unlike the Journal, U.S. News and Princeton Review do not request infor­mation that would com­promise the mission of the college. Allen said the data other college infor­mation ser­vices request is “wide-ranging,” and includes infor­mation on “admis­sions, aca­d­emics, ath­letics, extracur­ric­ulars, faculty, facil­ities, finances, financial aid, grad­uates, stu­dents, and staff.”

Pro­fessor of History Paul Rahe said the Journal’s exclusion of Hillsdale was not done out of “malice,” but rather, out of “sloven­liness.”

“The answer is laziness,” he said. “It’s a common enough human fault.”

Rahe, who wrote about the Journal rankings in a recent article for Ric­ochet, said Hillsdale’s freshman class is in the 95th per­centile, placing the college “a cut below” the Uni­versity of Michigan.

Hillsdale’s class of 2022 boasts an average ACT score of 30.16 and an average 3.89 GPA, com­pared to Uni­versity of Michigan’s freshman class, which had an average ACT score of 31 and an average 3.80 GPA, according to its admis­sions page.

Whalen said Hillsdale com­petes against many of the Journal’s top schools, like Harvard Uni­versity, the Mass­a­chu­setts Institute of Tech­nology, and Yale Uni­versity, in terms of “cross apps,” meaning stu­dents often apply to both Hillsdale and high-ranking Ivy League schools. Hillsdale even swipes the occa­sional student away from these schools, Rahe said.

Rahe, who pre­vi­ously taught at Yale, said Hillsdale’s aca­demic rigor is easily com­pa­rable to that of schools like Harvard and Yale. The only “real dif­ference” he said he’s noticed is Hillsdale stu­dents’ ten­dency to shy away from being “intel­lec­tually aggressive.” When com­pared to stu­dents at high-ranking schools, Rahe said Hillsdale stu­dents “don’t think enough for them­selves.”

“They don’t know how good they are,” he said.

But even that, he said, is changing.

“My freshmen this year have been quite aggressive,” he said. “They’re asking ques­tions and pushing back. My sense is we’re getting there.”

And after four years of a rig­orous liberal arts edu­cation, Rahe added, Hillsdale stu­dents are well pre­pared to compete against grad­uates from the Journal’s top schools.

“We do an aston­ish­ingly good job edu­cating our stu­dents,” he said. “And they should think big.”