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Williams College tops Forbes list of best schools

Jenna Johnson

Usually college rankings are no big surprise -- as in, "Oh, good, Harvard is still considered the best college in the country."

But this week, Forbes came out with its third annual college rankings, which is based on "the student's point of view," and named a new champion: Williams College in Massachusetts.

What, you don't know much about Williams?

It's a 217-year-old private liberal arts school "nestled in the Berkshire Mountains," Forbes reports. The college has just over 2,000 undergrads and a student-to-faculty ratio of 7-to-1. Williams has one of the lowest average student debt loads, $9,296, a number that could go even lower; this spring the college replaced all of its loans with grants.

Williams placed fourth on the Forbes list last year and fifth the year before that.

You can check out the entire list of America's Best Colleges on Forbes.com. Here are the top 10 schools:

1) Williams College

2) Princeton University

3) Amherst College

4) United States Military Academy

5) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6) Stanford University

7) Swarthmore College

8) Harvard University

9) Claremont McKenna College

10) Yale University

What do you think of this ranking? Do you agree with where your school ranked?

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  |  August 12, 2010; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Admissions  | Tags: Amherst, MIT, Princeton, U.S. Military Academy, Williams  
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Comments

As a graduate of Amherst and Yale, I'm pretty familiar with top ranked colleges. However, when my son attended Williams, I discovered first hand what an outstanding place it is. On parent's days, I attended superb lectures and met some wonderful professors, convincing me that Williams is truly committed to exceptional undergraduate education. Nearly all students participate in athletics and there is a good balance between the classroom and the sports field. The campus consists of New England college-style buildings in perfect harmony with the rural setting. The museums and art facilities add to the educational experience for all students. The intimate rural setting focuses the educational experience, allows students to participate in outdoor activities, and the small size facilitates lasting friendships. Williams has many traditions that draw students into the community, building mutal respect and independence. At the same time, the institution is respectful of all stakeholders--students, faculty, staff and even parents. I am not surprised at Forbes's assessment. For the right student, I can't think of a better place to go to college.

Posted by: Pentagron | August 12, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand the statement/question in the article"what, you dont't know much about Willims."
Williams College is well over two hundred years old and has consistently been rated as the top liberal arts college in the United States. In this particular ranking, Williams was compared to national universities as well, and still managed to retain its number one ranking. Williams was rated #1(in part) because it offers an extremely high quality of educational opportunities to its students, has a low student/faculty ratio (7-1) and has incredible facilities. Additionally, Williams College produces a high number of Rhodes Scholars and is a top feeder school to HPY graduate programs. Why the article incorrectly states that the number one ranking was based on students' opinions, is curious indeed.

Posted by: raymcardle | August 13, 2010 12:29 AM | Report abuse

I have some serious questions about Forbes' methodology. In particular, the top two criteria seem suspect.

One uses some aggregate of ratings from RateMyProfessor.com. In addition to potential sources of bias to these sorts of evaluations (which Forbes addresses to some extent), one challenge not addressed is the spotty cover of RateMyProfessor.com and ways that response rates may differ significantly between institutions, departments, etc. Some schools may have a culture where students complete the ratings, and others may not. This disparity introduces its own sources of bias.

Second, the ranking utilizes measures of career success including salary and service on corporate board. Now these may be fine measures if you're interested in going into the corporate world, but they're not very meaningful in many other sectors. Institutions that routinely send large numbers of students to academic or non-profit careers will almost surely have lower average salaries than institutions where more graduates pursue business or other more lucrative careers. This is not purely (or perhaps even mostly) a measure of institutional quality but of sector.

All in all, a disappointing approach.

Posted by: nashpaul | August 13, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

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