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The A-Listers: Can College Rankings Define a School?

By Madeline O'Brien
4 Apr 2014

How important are college rankings? As prospective students size up educational institutions, what is it that attracts them, their parents? Time and time again, we’ve seen DePauw’s name on the top party school list across the nation, but does that invalidate the academic standard we hold ourselves to? A new list was recently published by the Business Insider that appears to cast a redeeming light on “party schools.” Is this enough to simply put aside all the images we have created in our minds about the type of environment DePauw cultivates? Some believe so.

Based on the return on investment, DePauw is number ten for schools most worth your money. Generally speaking, a bachelor’s degree costs about $192,600. The return on investment winds up at an estimated $312,800 – just over $100,000. Their methodology? “…PayScale looked at salary data for employees with bachelor’s degrees, not including any jobs that would require a graduate degree…The net cost of each school was determined by looking at graduation rates, financial aid, and campus costs…”. The ROI was calculated by finding the total earnings and subtracting the cost of the bachelor’s degree and average earnings over someone without a college degree . In my mind, this calculation provides a fair comparison of the economic gap in lifestyles between someone with a bachelor’s degree and someone without.

So, while administration, faculty, and even students are getting hyped up about the “outrageous party ranking” DePauw has received, it is not a single, defining status. DePauw University has a facet of attributions that cannot all be confined to article rankings. The success of DePauw students speaks on behalf of the university’s caliber and we should not look solely to the Princeton Review or other outside sources to define our institution or decide if it is a place we want to invest in. For students paying their own way through college or for those with a stronger need for financial assistance, the ROI rankings seem to hold much more clout. One might be willing to take out loans, work, etc. in order to attend a university with a higher ROI rate in hopes of securing a solid job for the future. In this sense, the party ranking might be overlooked.

This begs the question: can all that DePauw offers be quantified? Some have explained that the DePauw experience is unique in its liberal arts education, 10:1 student-faculty ratio, and more. All of this plus DePauw’s high academic ranking speak great volumes while others choose to interpret the prevalent party scene as a negative aspect of our campus that takes away from its prestige. I say the opposite. DePauw represents a group of intelligent individuals capable of balancing both studious and social aspects that come with being a college student pursuing and landing prosperous careers.

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