Opinion: College rankings are not important


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A college’s ranking does not determine the outcome of a student’s happiness or success.

You have probably heard teachers, parents and advisers discuss lists of the top 10 or top 50 colleges in the country. The colleges are measured by components such as graduation rate, wealth, selectivity of admission, published research and alumni success; however, these rankings comprise a biased system that does not accurately assess whether a school will be right for a student.

Graduation rate is the biggest contributing factor to a school’s ranking. However, rankings aren’t based upon the standard four years a student will spend at a university. They are determined by a six-year graduation rate, when only 16.5% of all post-secondary school students are enrolled in graduate programs, as specified by the Education Date Initiative

Additionally, one factor that affects a school’s ranking by 20% is its reputation among officials at peer universities, according to U.S. News. This is a completely biased standard. 

NIU Vice President of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications Sol Jensen explains that NIU does not spend its money on trying to feed the popularity contest that is college rankings.

“We don’t try to game the system like a lot of schools do,” Jensen said.

Nevertheless, there are many aspects about NIU that attract its students and keep their first year retention rate higher than average.

Jensen said he believes that the faculty and staff play a big role in making new students feel invited and comfortable on campus and in the classroom. 

“It starts with the faculty and staff who are truly embracing our students,” Jensen said,  “acknowledging that they come from different lives, backgrounds and experiences. The desire to help them improve their social mobility and help them get great careers.”

The location of the university is another huge factor that attracts new students. 

“It’s not just the fact that we are close to where a lot of our students came from and grew up,” explained Jensen, “but also for students who did not grow up in the Northern Illinois region, the fact that we are so close to the great city of Chicago is another reason that draws them (students) here.” 

Lastly, and perhaps one of the more important reasons an individual might choose to attend NIU, is its affordability. NIU’s tuition is much lower than many of the other well-known public universities in Illinois. 

For Illinois Residents, Illinois State University has an estimated tuition rate of $15,416, University of Illinois has an estimate of $17,138 to $22,324  and Northern Illinois University’s tuition rate is $9,786. 

“NIU is a very affordable option for the higher education that we provide; a lot of great scholarships and financial aid opportunities that they might not receive at other institutions they might have applied to,” Jensen said. 

These rankings aren’t going away anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean you should put value in them. Instead, you should view them as general guidelines.