August 03, 2012 by Editorial Board
Forbes’ annual list of America’s Top Colleges was published Aug. 1, and Drexel was ranked No. 525 out of 650. According to Forbes, Drexel’s ranking means that 524 U.S. colleges have better teachers, greater career prospects and higher graduation rates with lower levels of debt. However, there are a couple of things Forbes’ criteria didn’t take into account about our school, and we think they should fix that.
The rankings are based on five general criteria: postgraduate success, student satisfaction, debt, four-year graduation rates and competitive awards. While we agree Drexel doesn’t win in the debt category and our freshman retention rates don’t support the student satisfaction aspect, we feel our postgraduate success and five-year graduation rate should be enough to bump us up, if only Forbes would recognize five-year co-op institutions.
Rochester Institute of Technology, which has had a co-op program since 1912 and now has one of the largest co-op programs in the world, is ranked 551 on the list. Northeastern University, which has the largest co-op program in the U.S. and costs just as much as top-ranked Princeton University, was ranked 411th.
These relatively low rankings are evidence of a major bias against educational institutions with co-op programs, which largely take more time to complete than traditional school schedules allow.
According to collegeresults.org, the amount of overall Drexel students who graduate in four years is 23.2 percent, while the amount who graduate in five years is 63.2 percent. That’s an additional 40 percent of students graduating on time according to their program that Forbes ignores in its survey.
In fact, 92 percent of Drexel students participate in the co-op program. Out of the five general criteria Forbes uses to rank colleges, none account for the benefits of the co-op program: salary, experience and professional networking.
A college’s public reputation in a magazine like Forbes means too much to be left to algorithmic computations. Forbes needs to adjust its judging criteria before it publishes a list that many people rely on to help decide which college they should attend.
There are unrivaled benefits to schools that integrate co-op cycles into the traditional school year. Five-year Drexel students leave the University with up to 18 months of work experience, often at major companies, making a variety of connections and amassing an impressive skill set. We think the Forbes ranking should acknowledge such a tremendous element of our University experience.