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Parchment Top-Choice College Ranking Defies Gaming

Unique New List Ranks By Actual Student Enrollment Choices


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., Oct. 27, 2011 – Which are America’s top-choice colleges? It depends very much on whom you ask.


With college-application season now getting into full swing, Parchment.com today releases its 2012 Parchment Top-Choice College Rankings. This is the inaugural edition of a unique college ranking from Parchment.com, the website that puts the predictive power of data to work for college applicants.


Unlike rankings based on subjective judgments like reputation, or factors subject to “gaming,” such as how many applicants a college rejects, Parchment.com ranks colleges and universities based solely on the decisions of tens of thousands of students who were admitted to multiple colleges and chose to attend one.


This year’s highest-ranked U.S. colleges across all institutional categories include:


                                                                                                            2012 Top 50 Undergraduate Institutions

2012 Top 50 Undergraduate Institutions


The 2012 Parchment college rankings are based on a sampling of more than 120,000 college acceptances from 2009 to 2011, covering a broad range of demographics in all 50 states. The data is extremely current, with over 80 percent of the applications coming from this year’s entering freshman class.



Parchment.com General Manager James Pirruccello noted that one of the strengths of the ranking system is that it cannot be easily be gamed by institutions in ways that harm their students.


“With other ranking systems, a college can improve its rank by terminating part-time faculty or by encouraging less-qualified students to apply in order to appear more selective,” Pirruccello says. “The only way to game the Parchment.com system is to take actions that make your institution more desirable to students. This ranking system aligns the interests of the colleges and the students.”


Many ranking systems exclude service academies or consider liberal arts colleges and regional colleges separately from larger universities. In contrast, the Parchment.com ranking method is powerful enough to consider all universities together on a level playing field, revealing which colleges and universities are most preferred overall by admitted students. Top-rated colleges include institutions that may have created a particularly engaging learning environment, colleges that may be especially generous with financial aid, or highly mission-driven institutions, such as polytechnic universities and service academies.


Owning 12 of the top 30 slots, liberal arts colleges show that they compete well against the larger national universities. Three service academies – Air Force, Navy, and West Point – showed up in the top 20. Air Force made a particularly strong showing, ranking even higher in the Top Choice rankings (at No. 7 overall) than in the U.S. News & World Report Liberal Arts rankings (at No. 33). Barnard, at an impressive No. 15 based on student choice, also made a particularly strong showing when compared to its U.S. News Liberal Arts rank (also No. 33). The University of Texas at Dallas, relegated to No. 143 in the U.S. News National rankings, finds itself at No. 46 when ranked according to student decisions. And Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, only considered to be a Western regional contender in the US News rankings, makes a strong showing on Parchment.com’s list, ranking No. 51 overall.


‘A Chess Match Among Institutions’


Parchment.com’s ranking system is derived from the work of Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-born American physics professor who created the modern system of ranking international chess players. Elo used statistical methods to rank chess players from strongest to weakest by comparing their actual performance to their expected performance based on the strength of their competitors.


Drawing inspiration from research into preference-based Elo ratings done by Harvard professors Christopher Avery and Caroline Hoxby, among others, Parchment.com’s Pirruccello adapted the Elo system to college rankings. Each time a student is admitted to multiple institutions, the college that the student chooses to attend is modeled as the “winner.” After observing enough decisions, it is possible to estimate the probability that a student will attend any particular college out of the pool of colleges to which they are admitted. “We identify colleges not from ‘best’ to ‘worst,’ but instead from ‘most likely to be chosen’ to ‘least likely to be chosen’ by the students who are given the option to attend,” says Pirruccello.


The full 2012 Parchment Top-Choice College Rankings.


Parchment Inc., the nation’s leading provider of academic credential data solutions to schools, universities, and the individuals they educate, created Parchment.com to put the predictive power of data and the collective intelligence of the Web to work for students as they make one of the most far-reaching decisions of their lives. Using statistical modeling and crowdsourcing techniques, Parchment.com gives students an opportunity to compare their chances of being accepted into different colleges and universities based on their academic profiles. And once they’re ready to apply, the site lets them bypass the usual paper-based transcript-request process to request academic records online.


About Parchment 


Parchment’s mission is to unleash education credentials by unlocking the critical data they embody. We work with institutions and corporations around the world helping people collect, promote and share their education credentials in simple and secure ways. Six state education agencies, 7,000 schools and universities and hundreds of thousands of individuals trust and rely on the Docufide by Parchment platform to transform and deliver millions of transcripts and other student records each year. Parchment is credentials unleashed. www.parchment.com