DePauw alum creates new college scorecard, DePauw scores high

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A new college-ranking scorecard created by DePauw alum James Stewart calculates the university’s “value added.”

James Stewart, a 1979 DePauw graduate and current New York Times author, has had many successes in the journalism field. He has racked up numerous accolades for his journalistic work such as the highly coveted Pulitzer Prize, the George Polk Award, and three Gerald Loeb awards, just to name a few.

Over the years, Stewart has written for some of the greatest journalistic entities in the country, including The Wall Street Journal, American Lawyer, and The New Yorker. He currently is the author of the “Common Sense” column for the Business Day section of The New York Times and a teacher at Columbia University.

One of his most recent “Common Sense” pieces from early October, “College Rankings Fail to Measure the Influence of the Institution”, dives into the complications that arise when college ranking systems fail to separate correlation from causation. In his column, Stewart states, “The new College Scorecard tells how much graduates of particular colleges earn, but not what impact, if any, the colleges have on graduates’ earnings”

Stewart is a big advocate for liberal arts education, crediting DePauw and his experience as editor of The DePauw for playing a huge role in his later success. “I appreciate it more and more the older I get. DePauw cultivated an inquiring mind. It honed my writing, reading and analytical skills,” Stewart states,” It helped me develop confidence and the courage to pursue the truth, even when going up against very powerful and wealthy people…that has been so important.”

Following his graduation from DePauw in ‘79, Stewart set out to become a lawyer, but ultimately realized that a career in journalism was what he truly desired to pursue. “I loved working on the DePauw and other journalism summer jobs. I realized the most successful lawyers (or anything else) love what they do. Ergo, I should pursue something I love. Best decision I ever made.”

Stewart worked with Jonathon Rothwell, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, to develop an adaptation of the Brookings college rankings. This new system, which Stewart refers to as the Brookings-Common Sense rankings, places less of an emphasis on curriculum and focuses more on schools with the highest “value-added”, regardless of major.

The results from this study were very interesting: liberal arts colleges rose in the rankings, and many Ivy League schools fell. In fact, the first Ivy won’t appear in the rankings until as far down as Brown at number 45.

DePauw University is ranked at number 19 on this list.  The only Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) school to make the top ten was Kenyon College.  Colgate leads in the number one position according to Stewart’s article.

According to Forbes.com, for 2015 DePauw ranks 78th overall, 66th among private colleges and 13th in the Midwest.  Four of the eight Ivy’s are ranked in the top ten and all eight are within the top 25.  Colgate comes in a number 40 on Forbes’s list.  

U.S. News also puts out a ranking of the best colleges each year.  The rankings from U.S. News are split up between categories of “National Universities Rankings” and “National Liberal Arts Colleges Rankings.” DePauw comes in at a tie with Furman University in Greenville, SC, Rhodes College in Memphis, TN and St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN.  Comparably, Oberlin is ranked at 23 and Kenyon at 25.  This places DePauw third in comparison to all of the other GLCA schools according to this ranking.

Stewart states that he was definitely surprised by the results of this study and DePauw’s position above Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale. However, he explains that such a positive outcome for liberal arts education systems makes a lot of sense. “I think the small class size, the attention from professors who really care about students and teaching, and the sense of community make a huge difference,” Stewart states, “…schools like DePauw also cultivate important values, whether it's something as simple as punctuality, or as complex as integrity.”