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Yet, we know of no evaluations of colleges based on lasting contributions to society. Of course, such contributions are difficult to judge. In the analysis below, we focus primarily on STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine/mathematics) contributions, which are arguably the least subjective to evaluate, and increasingly more valued in today’s workforce
The top schools on our lists tend to be private, with significant financial resources. However, the top public university, UC Berkeley, is ranked highly on both lists: #13 on the Nobel/Fields/Turing and #31 on the National Academies. Perhaps surprisingly, many elite liberal arts colleges, even those not focused on STEM education, such as Swarthmore and Amherst, rose to the top
One intriguing result is the strong correlation (r ~ 0.5) between our ranking (over all universities) and the average SAT score of each student population, which suggests that cognitive ability, as measured by standardized tests, likely has something to do with great contributions later in life. By selecting heavily on measurable characteristics such as cognitive ability, an institution obtains a student body with a much higher likelihood of achievement
While admission to one of the colleges on the lists above is no guarantee of important achievements later in life, the probability is much higher for these select matriculants
Our findings identify schools that excel at producing impact, and our method introduces a new way of thinking about and evaluating what makes a college or university great. Perhaps college rankings should be less subjective and more focused on objective real world achievements of graduates