New college rankings give powerhouse schools good marks; Chicago State gets dinged

SHARE New college rankings give powerhouse schools good marks; Chicago State gets dinged
SHARE New college rankings give powerhouse schools good marks; Chicago State gets dinged

The University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the Illinois Institute of Technology earn high marks, while Chicago State University scrapes the bottom of a new ranking of colleges and universities nationwide issued Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.

The nonprofit public policy institution, based in Washington, D.C., used three criteria that it says give a more complete and accurate picture of colleges’ and universities’ success rates than the popular U.S. News & World Report ranking.

“Our rankings use more data on student outcomes and cover many more schools,” said Brookings Institution report co-author Siddharth Kulkarni, a senior research assistant, who wrote the report with Brookings Fellow Jonathan Rothwell. The three criteria, which cover two- and four-year schools, are: the average mid-career salaries of a college’s or university’s graduates; the percentage of graduates who pay off their student loans within three years of graduation; and graduates’ occupations and the average mid-career earnings that those jobs typically bring in.

The Brookings Institution, like U.S. News, advises parents and students to use a variety of information to choose a college or university and avoid focusing on rankings alone.

Based on the Brookings Institution criteria, IIT, the South Side university known for its engineering, science, design and architectural programs, ranked just behind perennial winners the University of Chicago and Northwestern University among local schools based on their graduates’ value-added average mid-career salaries, and ranked ahead of its bigger rivals for its graduates’ mid-career occupational earnings.

IIT lands in the 94th percentile — meaning that it’s near the top and that only 6 percent rank higher — of colleges and universities in graduates’ mid-career earnings (graduates make, on average, $95,000 a year — or 28.9 percent more than the Brookings Institution’s data predicted); 96 percent of graduates repaid their loans within three years of graduation, and graduates’ occupational earnings averaged $76,000 a year.

The university has a natural edge because its graduates are in high demand by employers, but IIT’s success also hinged partly on what the Brookings Institution called “the X factor” — qualities such as the university’s leadership and its alumni network, Kulkarni said.

Mike Gosz, IIT vice provost for admissions and financial aid, said in a statement that the ranking “is a testament to the hard work and dedication of IIT’s faculty, staff and students.

“Our top undergraduate job placement and earnings potential for our graduates, along with our rigorous coursework, help to set Illinois Tech apart from other universities,” Gosz said.

Other schools ranking at the top were Notre Dame, in the 93rd percentile among similar research universities in occupational earnings, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 92nd percentile among research universities. The University of Illinois at Chicago ranked in the 81st percentile by comparison.

Below the 50th percent ranking were Lake Forest College and Chicago State University, according to the report.

Lake Forest’s outcomes outperformed the Brookings Institution’s predictions, but didn’t fare as well when compared with similar colleges nationwide.

For example, Lake Forest ranked in the 42nd percentile in its graduates’ average mid-career occupational salary; the Brookings Institution’s data foresaw the yearly salaries would be $62,000; the actual salaries averaged $63,000.

Nevertheless, Lake Forest College spokeswoman Liz Libby said the school is pleased with the results because “they confirm to us that Lake Forest College graduates earn well above average at mid-career and that virtually all Lake Forest graduates repay their loans on time.”

Chicago State University, the South Side state school, ranks in the 6th percentile for the average mid-career income of its graduates; 94 percent of schools in the same category rank higher, according to the report.

The data predicted that Chicago State University graduates would have a mid-career salary of $60,000; the actual salary turned out to be $55,000.

The percentage of graduates who pay back their student loans within three years stood at 85.7 percent, putting Chicago State in the 15th percentile in that category.

And for the mid-career occupational salary of its graduates — $60,000 — Chicago State ranked in the 19th percentile, according to the report.

Chicago State University spokesman Tom Wogan said the school is achieving success given that 59 percent of its graduates come from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level and go on to jobs earning $55,000 a year.

“There are lots of way to measure success, and we measure success in terms of how human lives, one by one, improve,” Wogan said. These graduates “are moving upwards.”

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