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ETC College Ranking Index - Data Methodology and FAQ

Data and Methodology

The ETC college ranking system empirically determines the Economic Value Added, by each college ranked within our system. We define economic value added as being the improvement in earnings and employability of graduates; measured against the total cost of the education.

Some of the metrics used in calculating the ETC College Rankings Index are:

Frequently Asked Questions

What significant changes were made from the 2016 rankings to the 2017 ETC Index?
The most substantive change was that we significantly increased the weighting of graduation rates in relation to other factors in our methodology. The rationale for this adjustment is that graduation rates are significantly lower than they are assumed to be, and successfully graduating college is a significant predictor of labor market success and the ability of a student to pay off loans. Other category weightings were also adjusted to further refine our Index.

To address the issue of poor graduation rates, we have developed an important new program that will enable you to ascertain the probability of graduation- the ETC College Graduation Probability Program We encourage all students contemplating college to use this new program as a starting point in their research.

What are the basic criteria for schools included in your ranking system?
The ETC College Rankings Index is comprised of accredited 4-year colleges, with annual enrollments greater than 750 students. The Index analyzes data for almost 1,200 colleges, representing 96% of all students enrolled in 4-year colleges.

Does your system use SAT or ACT scores as a component of your ranking system?
Only to the extent that we control for the quality of students as an input measure for each school. We control for the aptitude of the student populations of all schools we rank. In plain English, students with lower SAT scores typically earn less money over the course of a career than do their counterparts with higher SAT scores, when controlling for educational attainment.

If graduation rates are so important, why is it that a school with a lower graduation rate than Yale, ranks above Yale in your rankings?
Again, we control for student aptitude in our model. Yale accepts students with very high SAT scores. Students with very high SAT's almost always graduate in 4 years, regardless of where they attend college. Therefore, according to our model, Yale’s high graduation rate is a consequence of its high aptitude students.

Conversely, students with low SAT scores struggle to graduate. Our model identifies schools that have higher graduation rates than their students would imply. This is another factor that causes a school to move up or down in our rankings.

I see a lot of state schools ranking highly in your system. Why is this?
Public, state run schools generally provide a very good education for an excellent price. The result being that many of these schools offer an excellent value relative to most other categories of colleges. Academic standards are uniformly high in most state schools and a relatively high percentage of their graduates enter the workforce successfully; with meaningful occupations and high relative salaries. Additionally, graduates from these state schools typically have low debt loads which translates ultimately to low loan default rates.

The impetus for our College Rankings Index is to provide reliable information that helps students develop successful careers with a low financial burden. Therefore, we encourage value conscious students and parents to strongly consider their in-state public college system. In almost all regions of the U. S., you have access to a very good education, at a heavily subsidized price.

How does your ETC College Ranking Index compare with other college ranking systems?
When reviewing some of the other ranking systems, what we have observed is that SAT and ACT scores are commonly relied upon as a proxy for the quality of the education delivered by the schools. SAT and ACT scores indicate the quality of the students and in most instances, are not correlated with the quality of education provided by a school.

How should I incorporate the college rankings into my college and career planning process?
For starters, understand the purpose of our rankings system. We developed it to enable you to identify schools that provide a quality education with proven career placement records, at the lowest possible cost. We define 'quality education' as being the development of a skill set that is marketable, i.e. a real career with stable earnings.

Also note that this rankings system is only one of many programs we offer for college and career planning. We encourage every student and family to conduct research with the ETC College Graduation Probability Program where you can determine the likelihood of the student actually graduating from college.

What is more important; selection of a school or the major field of study?
The data show that both are important to a successful career outcome. However, the selection of major is more closely mapped to a successful or unsuccessful career outcome as opposed to the school.

Which majors should I consider and which should I avoid?
There is not a simple answer to this question. You should absolutely consider the field of study that you're good at and steer clear of what you're not good at. However, some majors are literally dead ends for all but the very best students. Our CareerBuddy program can assist you in the determining majors and careers which are consistent with your capabilities.

You should never lose sight of the fact that after graduation, you are going to have to find an employer that values your skill set enough to pay for it. The reality is that in many fields, there simply aren't enough job openings or there are too many job applicants, or both.

Ultimately, jobs that are relevant to the marketplace are the ones to focus on. Determine those that make sense for you to pursue, construct a coherent college and career plan, and implement your plan with financial discipline each step of the way.

Why are your salary numbers substantially lower than what I've seen from other sources?
The salary values shown here are based on ALL persons employed full time, within 1 year of graduation. Following is an example of the concept of our salary calculation methodology.
ACME University had 6 persons graduating with accounting degrees last year, 4 of whom are now working full time: The average salary for graduates of ACME University with accounting degrees is $28,750. This is in contrast to the typical practice of reporting the salaries of only those persons who became accountants. Most other systems would report $45,000.

If it is true that a college degree could add over $1,000,000 to my career earnings, why should I be concerned with the cost of school?
First point- the additional $1,000,000 assumes that you will obtain a degree in a high value field.

With respect to the cost of a school, when you calculate the total cost of obtaining a degree including interest expenses, you will see that it can take over 20 years to pay back your loan obligations for schools costing over $20,000 annually. Furthermore, the higher the cost of your education, the more likely you are to pass the threshold of not meeting your debt obligations and going into default.

Why does ETC place so much emphasis on career outcomes, debt management and salaries?
College is not a career in itself- it is a stepping stone/training to a career. It is where young people acquire skills that should enable them to become self-sufficient and contributing members to society.

Does ETC advocate any specific education and career planning guidance for students?
Yes. We feel strongly that every student should utilize all of the education resources available to attain the level of education necessary to become employed in the career they have identified, and they should do so with a strong emphasis on managing costs and debt to the best extent possible.

Also, contact a professional college consultant or counselor to assist you with the process. They have the expertise to help you find the most appropriate college and major, and they can help you to save substantial costs through their knowledge of grants, scholarships and other means of saving on costs.

I am looking for information relating to a school that I don’t see as being available of your website. What can I do?
Our proprietary research services are available at $400 per hour. Send us your questions and we will contact you to discuss your inquiry

What credentials does ETC have to provide the kind of information it offers?
Our data partner, Job Search Intelligence (JSI) is the leading provider of information relating to educational attainment and career outcomes. JSI's data is relied upon by more than 5,000 employers including over half of the Fortune 500, some of the largest student loan servicers in the U. S., over 3,000 university career centers and career planning offices, compensation consultancies, and millions of job seekers annually.

Job Search Intelligence, LLC is the primary data provider for ETC. JSI provides the following statement regarding its sources of data: The data are derived from a plurality of sources within government agencies and educational institutions. These sources include and are not limited to: U. S. Department of Labor, U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics, U. S. Census Bureau, Common Data Set Initiative, U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, U. S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U. S. Federal Reserve. All data and methodologies are protected by copyright, patents and pending patents. All rights reserved.