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New College Ranking Designed to Show Economic Value Added With a Degree

A new college-ranking system has been developed that looks at the value of schools based solely on how much better off graduates are financially once they earn a degree.

The California nonprofit Educate to Career partnered with the data company Job Search Intelligence to create the new rankings for about 1,200 four-year public and nonprofit colleges. The newly released ETC College Ranking Index  considers students' SAT or ACT scores and socioeconomic background when they enter a given college, the total costs related to attending the college, and the outcomes of the students when they enter the labor market.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tops the list, followed by California State University-Los Angeles, and the University of California-Merced. Six of the top 10 colleges in the ETC ranking are in California.

The ranking, which includes colleges with 1,000 or more students, was compiled with information from 55 sources from various government agencies and data including school, major, occupation, salary and other demographic characteristics, according to Paul Hill, president of JSI, developer of the methodology used.

The index is designed to be a resource to families.

"They are ravenous about having access to this information," said Hill in a phone interview. "It is literally enabling them to make a fact-based decision."

Access to the ETC index is free, along with ETC's other online tools, CareerBuddy and CollegeBuddy, to match students' interests to majors and colleges. Detailed information on college outcomes by major costs users $100 per school.

Katy Murphy, the president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said in a phone interview that the ETC system is interesting, but like most ranking systems, is a narrow way to view colleges. Along with value, students need to consider fit, size, and location of a college. "If a student is not happy, they will not be successful," she said.

Murphy questioned some of the schools in the ETC's top 10, which had low graduation rates according to the National Center for Education Statistic's College Navigator. Hill said some with low completion rates still rank high because students finish with little debt and do well in the labor market.

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