Value-added college ranking





The ranking of higher education institutions has become significantly more popular, and is considered a key resource for the public in choosing a college to attend. With millions of online visitors, different sources offer their rankings based on varying metrics. However, there is much criticism in their methodology as it can misinform the public and perpetuate a “quality” myth associated with highly selective institutions, and it may contribute to social inequality due to stratifying student socio-economic background into ranking tiers.  None of the current popular rankings employ metrics that gauge an institution’s “value-added” contribution to their student’s post-attendance success. Value-added ranking offers a way to determine the rank of each institution by statistically controlling for a large range of input factors, putting each institution on the same scale.



Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno have developed a series of algorithms that determine an institution’s rank based on a set of “value-added” metrics. This offers a more accurate estimate of a college’s performance in graduating financially successful students. The ranking data are presented through an online interactive reporting system which offers a wide range of data segmentation functions to produce customized reports by type of institution in order to provide necessary context for meaningful ranking comparison.  The “value added” ranking rests on an index score composed of four key academic progress and post-enrollment/graduation student outcomes including: 1) intergenerational income mobility rate, 2) federal loan repayment rate, 3) six-year graduation rate for Bachelor’s degree seeking students, and 4) freshman retention rate, after accounting for student and institutional resource input factors. Data segmentation factors include institution mission, enrollment size, control, geographic region/state, Carnegie classification, accreditation region, predominant degree offered, and degree of urbanicity.  Both actual and normalized outcomes are reported to assess the institutional value added.



  • Uses publicly available data for transparency
  • Composite score is weighted heavily on outcomes of heightened concern (i.e. student loan repayment rate and intergenerational income mobility rate)
  • Includes a detailed explanation of the ranking, contextual narrative, and technical supplements documenting data elements used and the analytical framework that underpins the value-added calculation.




Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Shannon Sheehan
Manager, Technology Commercialization
University of Nevada, Reno
Serge Herzog