Friday, September 13, 2013

What's All The Fuss About?

This is the week when people go crazy. The rankings come out, led by USNWR and their list of the best colleges. We all know it's a fool's game to try to rank colleges. Malcolm Gladwell's piece sheds some light on it in his usual excellent, conversational style.

But if you want to see how we as a society obsess over the smallest sliver of the the market, and how the media focus on the elite colleges, it's important to see how that market is shaped. Here are four views of IPEDS data, 2012, breaking institutions into selectivity categories. I broke selectivity into five bands: To be in the "most selective" category, you need an admission rate of 12.5% or lower. The bands then cut at 25%, 50%, 75%, and everything over 75%. The blue bars, representing the most selective institutions, are but a tiny fraction of the higher education industry. Which, of course, is why people are so fascinated with them. 

This set includes only those four-year, not-for-profit institutions that admit freshmen. You can see how many colleges are in each category, how big the total enrollment is at those institutions, how many high school seniors applied, and how many eventually enrolled. Use the filters to narrow it down to region or Carnegie Classification, if you'd like.