U.S. News and World Report released its list of the 100 Best National Liberal Arts Colleges on Sept. 9, and Hillsdale College ranked 64th, a 12-point jump from last year’s rankings. On Sept. 5, the Wall Street Journal released its national college rankings, and Hillsdale was again excluded from that list.
The Wall Street Journal does not consider Hillsdale College in its rankings because Hillsdale “does not participate in the federal student aid program,” the Journal’s Senior Director of Communications Steve Severinghaus told The Collegian last year.
Because Hillsdale does not accept federal funds, Hillsdale College student data is not listed in the Department of Education’s “College Scorecard” website, a data tool that lets users compare schools and where WSJ draws its rankings.
“Hillsdale has not been included in the WSJ rankings because they require data on financial aid, indebtedness, and graduate salaries which are drawn from the College Scorecard, which only ‘sees’ students who have taken federal aid,” Hillsdale’s Director of Institutional Research George Allen said in an email. “Further, even if Hillsdale could provide equivalent data on student finances and outcomes, the WSJ rankings include data on race and ethnicity of students and faculty, which Hillsdale does not collect and cannot provide.”
In a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal in 2015, Professor of English and former Provost David Whalen wrote, “The Wall Street Journal, like the U.S. Education Department, the White House, and much of the federal bureaucracy, has apparently determined that higher education in this country occurs only within institutions operating under the government’s intrusive, micromanaging hand.”
The Wall Street Journal ranked 801 U.S. colleges, assessing the schools in areas such as student outcomes and engagement, school resources, and environment.
President of Hillsdale College Larry Arnn said if not for its exclusion, Hillsdale would excel in the WSJ rankings,
“I expect we would do very well on the earnings measures, but our students are not in the database,” Arnn said in an email. “If it wished to be thorough, the Journal would include us and give us an average score on the earnings part, or enter ‘not available.’”
Hillsdale College Provost Christopher VanOrman said that national college rankings never reflect the entirety of the school.
“Being ranked highly in these reviews is always humbling and certainly helps to recruit excellent faculty and students, but it is important to realize that these rankings do not fully describe the excellence of the college,” VanOrman said in an email.
When asked about the metrics for rating colleges, Arnn said that these metrics never tell the whole story.
“In this fully-managed society, the federal government funds a significant part of higher education nearly everywhere,” Arnn said in an email. “Then it tracks people through life by the Internal Revenue Service. Now it is putting those numbers together to measure how colleges prepare graduates for ‘success.’ Success is measured in earnings. But no one seriously thinks that earnings is the whole story or even the main story.”