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Hillsdale College finds light in recent Wall Street Journal rankings. Nicole Ault | Col­legian

The Wall Street Journal has once again excluded Hillsdale College from its annual ranking of the best col­leges in the nation. Since the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Edu­cation began the annual College Ranking list in 2016, it has not once included Hillsdale College because the data for its rankings comes from the Department of Edu­cation.

“This has been a problem for a few years now,” Hillsdale College Pres­ident Larry Arnn said in an email. “The rankings cap­i­talize on and are dimin­ished by the ten­dency to think that the success of col­leges is prin­ci­pally in the future earnings of their stu­dents. It is partly there, but other things are more important and higher.”

The Journal’s ranking method­ology depends heavily upon data col­lected by the federal gov­ernment on uni­ver­sities’ racial diversity and graduate salaries. As Hillsdale College does not accept federal funds, it is not required to submit such infor­mation on its stu­dents to the Department of Edu­cation. In fact, the school does not even collect racial infor­mation due to its com­mitment to educate “irre­spective of nation, color, or sex,” as its mission statement states.

The racial diversity of a university’s com­munity and the average graduate’s earnings are two of four cat­e­gories that the Wall Street Journal uses to determine its rankings. The other two cat­e­gories assess what spending schools put toward instruction and student ser­vices, and the quality of teaching and student/professor inter­action based on student surveys.

Because of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, the Wall Street Journal can­celed student surveys this year, saying “it was unrea­sonable to expect insti­tu­tions to invest time and effort sur­veying their stu­dents during a crisis” and that the shift to online teaching would make the survey results unre­liable. Con­se­quently, the paper reused student survey results from last year.

To determine racial diversity, the Journal looks at Pell Grant enrollment data col­lected by the National Center for Edu­cation Sta­tistics. For graduate salary data, the Journal looks at pub­li­ca­tions from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard. Neither of these gov­ernment sources report any data for Hillsdale College.

Joshua Tro­jniak, director of insti­tu­tional research at Hillsdale College, said these gov­ernment data sources are com­monly com­pleted by uni­ver­sities as part of their annual reporting. Many other ranking pub­li­ca­tions do not rely on this data, however, and instead use surveys they have pro­duced them­selves to gather the nec­essary data.

“One of my respon­si­bil­ities is to provide insti­tu­tional data to mul­tiple outside entities, which is then used to produce various college rankings that are pub­lished each year,” Tro­jniak said.

U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review are two pub­li­ca­tions that use the data Hillsdale pro­vides. In its 2021 rankings, U.S. News places Hillsdale College at #54 in National Liberal Arts Col­leges and the Princeton Review ranks Hillsdale College highly in several cat­e­gories, including #15 in Best-Run Col­leges, #10 in Pro­fessors Get High Marks, and #13 in Stu­dents Study the Most.

The Wall Street Journal does not collect data with its own surveys, however, relying instead on mostly gov­ernment-pub­lished data. The pub­li­cation would have to do extra research to find the data for Hillsdale that they use to rank col­leges. 

Pro­fessor of History Paul Rahe expressed his dis­ap­pointment in the Journal for excluding Hillsdale.

“To get the proper infor­mation, the Wall Street Journal would have to do some­thing that the news-side editors there appar­ently think improper,” Rahe said. “It is called reporting. A tele­phone call to the provost’s office would probably get them the per­tinent infor­mation.”

Rahe for­merly taught at Yale Uni­versity, which the Journal has ranked as the third highest college. Yale and all other Ivy League schools are among the top 15 highest ranked schools.

“The best stu­dents here do not fall far short of the best stu­dents at Yale,” Rahe said.

Hills­dale’s class of 2024 averaged an ACT score of 31 and a GPA of 3.9 according to pre­lim­inary sta­tistics. This would place the college’s freshmen in the same range as the Journal’s 23rd ranked Uni­versity of Michigan-Ann Arbor for ACT, and even above Michigan’s 3.86 average GPA. 

The Wall Street Journal did not return the Collegian’s request for comment.