On Monday, Samuel Flanigan (deputy director of data research) and I met with the leaders of the Center for Measuring University Performance. The center, located, at Arizona State University, focuses on competition among major research universities and has its own widely read rankings. But its rankings are mainly based on research expenditures—not quite the total picture that prospective students and parents need to know. We met with John V. Lombardi— who is the University of Massachusetts-Amherst chancellor—and Elizabeth D. Capaldi—executive vice president and university provost of Arizona State University.
We discussed how U.S. News can improve the predicted graduation rate. This is a measure that we use in the Best Colleges rankings to determine how well a school does in terms of graduating students based on their incoming characteristics, like SAT/ACT scores. Lombardi and Capaldi say that predicted graduation rates are becoming very important in higher education and that the many public colleges and universities or their state governing boards are computing their own predicted graduation rates as an accountability and performance indicator. They also thought it's good that we're considering adding the percentage of students receiving Pell grants because that adds an important student characteristic.
We also discussed how U.S. News measures expenditures per student. Chancellor Lombardi says that the expenditures factor is an important component of our rankings methodology: "The more money a school has to spend on its students, the better that school will be in terms of being able to produce a high-quality education product." But he and Capaldi feel the expenditure measure would be better if we removed research conducted at medical schools from the calculation because undergraduates don't benefit from that work. We do limit that data to some degree now and will consider if we should do more (though not for the rankings released in August). They said they would share with U.S. News medical school research data they receive from the American Association of Medical Schools to help us decide.