A new ranking of colleges -- the Alumni Factor -- will debut today. As the name suggests, most of the criteria are based on alumni views of their own colleges. Only 2 of the 15 criteria do not come from alumni surveys. Four of the criteria are related to wealth: average household income, percentage of graduates in high-income households (above $150,000), average net worth of households, and percentage of graduates in high net worth households (above $1 million). Other criteria -- such as preparation for job success and immediate job opportunities -- focus on careers generally, not pay. The new ranking effort is led by Monica McGurk, formerly of McKinsey and Company. In an interview, McGurk said that her company has figured out a reliable way to get representative samples of alumni to survey and that these names are not provided by their alma maters. She said that typically about 200 alumni are needed per college, and that they are evenly distributed in age, but that people are not surveyed until they are at least two years out of college. She declined to say how the company identifies the alumni.
Asked if her system favors colleges that educate investment bankers over, say, teachers, given the wealth-based criteria, McGurk said that it did not. She noted that other criteria in her methodology, such as friendship development at college, and social and communication skill development, have nothing to do with salaries or wealth. And she said some colleges that have over the years educated many teachers (she named Spelman College as an example) did quite well in her rankings. While the criteria are ranked equally in the Alumni Factor methodology, the company will offer a tool for prospective students to set their own methodology in the rankings, so they can count factors they care about, and not others.
The Alumni Factor plans to make money by offering low-cost access to its rankings, with the idea that students and families will want to see them, and that some alumni may as well. The company also plans to sell its data to colleges that may be able to compare themselves to peers, having access to aggregate data. McGurk declined to say how much the company would be charging colleges.