How The New York Times is giving students control over college rankings

The brand new "Build Your Own Rankings" tool allows students to curate a personalized Top 10 college list.

Harvard Law’s departure from U.S. News and World Report’s Best College Rankings list quickly drew the support of schools across the nation and even the Department of Education. One news heavyweight is joining the pushback with the debut of a unique ranking tool that re-envisions the coveted student guide from the ground up.

The New York Times’ brand new “Build Your Own Rankings” tool allows students to curate a Top 10 college list based on priorities that are important to them. It’s a college “ranking” that does not necessarily subject students to an authoritative opinion of what’s best.

“That’s only fitting: Where to attend college is a big decision, if not nearly as consequential as many young people believe, because college is a serious commitment of time and money,” said Frank Bruni in a New York Times op-ed where he introduced the new tool. “It shouldn’t be outsourced to U.S. News, Forbes or any other organization spitting out a one-size-fits-all hierarchy with a debatable methodology dictated by nameless, faceless number crunchers.”

Bruni makes it clear The Times is tired of general rankings lists, but that its journalists also understand the value of a trusted source that can give young, yearning students a guide to finding a higher ed fit. Using a simple slider, students can easily scale what elements of a college’s or university’s strengths are important to them—such as economic mobility, athletics, or even party scene.

It then aggregates all the elements, stacking them against each other as a percentage of the user’s overall priorities. Each small change made to an element’s slider populates a new Top 10 list. The list can be further customized for school size, location, religious affiliation and urbanization.

The ranking covers 883 nonprofit institutions, each with more than 500 students and a graduation rate of 50% or higher. The data was largely collected by the National Center for Education Statistics, followed by College Scorecard, Niche and Opportunity Insights. Read more about the methodology here.

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Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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