Culture / Newsy

Surprise Texas School Challenges Rice On Best Colleges Rankings

America’s Most Valuable Degrees

BY // 07.15.15

Rice University’s presence on a new Best Colleges list is about as surprising as a hot, humid summer day in Houston.

It’s the norm. Especially when it comes to best-value rankings. A Rice degree is known for delivering a lot of bang for its buck.

So it’s no surprise to see Rice ranked 14th (out of nearly 1,500 schools) in Money Magazine‘s just-released Best Colleges list. The college chasing close behind the Owls in the race for the top spot in Texas is likely to catch plenty of people off guard, however.

There’s Texas A&M University coming in at No. 20 ahead of vaunted Yale, Dartmouth and Duke, which tie for 21st in the rankings. A&M’s also a whopping 62 spots in front of rival University of Texas.

And before you dismiss Money’s rankings as a gimmick, note that The Washington Post is praising the mag for finally getting college rankings right. Unlike the more established and often questioned U.S. News & World Report college rankings, Money focuses on the tangible monetary value of a degree from the school.

This is determined by comparing the net price of a degree at a university with the average annual salary of graduates from that school in their first five years of employment. Graduation rates and how a college’s students perform compared to expectations are also factored into the rankings.

Under this system, Rice’s 91 percent graduation rate and $61,200 average early-career earnings help vault it to No. 14 in America. Texas A&M’s graduation rate (79 percent) is much lower than Rice’s. In fact, it’s the third lowest in the Top 20 schools. But A&M is boosted by the fact its recent graduates earn $54,000 in average annual salary while the net price of a degree at the school is a relatively inexpensive $84,732.

While its grads earn more on average in the first five years of their career, the price of a Rice education is almost twice that of A&M’s ($157,824). That difference keeps Texas A&M right up there in the conversation with Rice — at least in these rankings.

UT is hurt by its 78 percent graduation rate and its $120,844 net degree cost. (Longhorns make an average of $52,222 annually in the first five years of their careers.) Of course, hurt is relative.

The University of Texas is still in the Top 100, far ahead of some prestigious colleges like Wesleyan, whose graduates earn only $45,550 on average while shelling out $205,374 for their diplomas. Sometimes degrees and sense work better in Texas.

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